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Fancy some turns before your holiday? - Katy Dartford, SW London
Monday December 5, 2011 - Email this article to a friend

A new training aid called a Skiplex is on hand. The first of its kind in the UK has recently opened in London. PlanetSKI reporter, Katy Dartford went along to see if it could get her ski legs back before the season begins.

The Skiplex is a new teaching aid that promises results eight times quicker than snow domes or dry slopes. A bold claim indeed.

It is a continuous rotating ski track so you can ski or snowboard without stopping, but unlike other indoor simulators, you're not tied in and you can move up and down across the Skiplex.

It's about the size of a squash court.

Powered by a hydraulic system, the incline and speed of the track is controlled by the instructor using a handheld remote control, so it suits the user's experience and ability.

"Wives come here before their ski holidays and don't tell their husbands," says the BASI qualified chief instructor, Chris Murphy. "We've even got a 65 year old lady who is going on holiday with son and grandson. She hasn't skied for 35 years, so is planning on surprising them with her skills."

Perhaps unsurprisingly the Skiplex was developed in Holland, where there are now around 50 centres. The UK one is available at Duke's Meadows in Chiswick and the centre manager, Mark Strachan, has bought the rights and plans to expand them across the UK.

It can be cranked up to 39 degrees and speeds of up to 35/40km per hour - equivalent to a black run and perfect for bashing out turns apparently.

"It helps iron out all the typical bad habits like having your legs too extended, sitting back or leaning forward too much. People are skeptical but they get on it and it's like "wow!" It's a platform to work on body movement and posture, the mirror in front of you means you can see what you're doing and that helps with muscle memory," says Chris.

He claims a 45-minute session packs in as much skiing as a whole day in The Alps in terms of actual time skiing and how knackered you feel by the end of it.

I was skeptical as I went for a trial run.

The surface, 'Maxxtrack' is made of soft nylon tufts with a small amount of water sprayed onto it so that the skis slip and glide.

Holding onto a bar in front of the mirror, I'm told the first task is to learn how to ski on the track.

Getting into a snow plough position, Chris switches the Skiplex to about half speed.

As I spread the back of the skies apart, I move backwards up the slope. I practice just doing this and then traversing for a few minutes.

Then we move on to putting the skies into a parallel position to make a turn.

Unlike on snow, here you've got to actually lift your ski off the floor and place it into the other to make the turn, then sweep it out into a plough to traverse the slope again.

It's actually quite tricky at first and every now and then I'd catch an edge, causing Chris to push a button, immediately stopping the simulator and me from crashing over.

My legs soon begin to burn as my poor legs are not used to this kind of effort.  It's been a year since I last skied.

Chris reckons it takes most people a session to get into parallel, and then you can start working on technique.

"It's almost better if you've not skied before as you are learning correctly from scratch, with an instructor watching just you and giving feedback from just 10 feet away."

By the end of the session I am sweeping up and down across the Skiplex more confidently and itching to practice some more techniques, but glad to stop and relieve the lactic acid that's been building up.

The artificial ski slope simulator, which is endorsed Britain's No 1 female ski racer, Chemmy Alcott, can take up to groups of four with 2 adults or 3 small children skiing on the slope at any one time.

Usually you will ski for 10 minutes, and then have a 10-minute break before having another go.

It's not the Alps, but at least there are no queues, it's not cold and it'll stop before you fall over.

As a training aid it'll certainly motivate you and build your confidence for the coming season.

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1 hour session in a group of four.  Peak - £39.99; Off Peak - £29.99
. Prices are per person

Package Sessions (6 + 1 free)
. Peak - £239;  Off Peak £179

Prices are per person.

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