Lift count : 2 x Drag-lifts 2 magic carpets
The Hemel Hempstead Snow Centre is Englands newest indoor acquisition sitting on the site of the old Hemel dry slope. So far (having only been open two months) its already well on its way to being an established recreation hangout for beginners and intermediates alike.
Just 20 minutes from London just off the M1 and the most Southern indoor hall guarantee that its going to be popular but overcrowding hasn't been a problem as of yet with a 30m wide 160m length pillar-less slope and a special learning slope set aside. All in all, over 8000m2 of snow space easily caters for 170 plus users on the more popular freestyle nights and competitions.
Hemels' main draw aside from its proximity to London is its fantastic snow, whilst its an ongoing process getting the snow right Hemel have hit the ground running and
Whilst taking the freestyle scene at Hemel quite seriously beginners certainly haven't been forgotten. The 100m lesson slope, separated from the main slope is ideal for learners with a mellow gradient and easy to use rope tow (as opposed to POMA lift).
Lessons can be booked online, by calling or even just turning up, though it is advisable to ring ahead. Ticket prices remarkably include the hire of skis, boards boots and helmets helping to keep the cost of learning down which is great plus in an otherwise pretty pricey learning experience.
Taster lessons, adult lessons, group lessons and under 16 lessons are all available in all manner of different time slots so its best to look on the website to see what suits your level or budget best. As an example- a Group Lesson Package of four lessons, i.e 4 sessions of 1.5 hours will cost £160, divide this by however many in your group and it starts to look like pretty good value.
A single Adult Private Lesson will set you back £75 for the hour, including equipment and slope pass. Whereas for a Junior Private Lesson (U16) will cost £60.
Its worth noting there is also a 'play' area for the very young just to get used to being in a snow-like environment, perfect if your about to take your children on a holiday soon. Here you'll find all manner of adventures certain to keep the little ones entertained as soft play-tunnels and fun characters adorned the area.
This is where Hemel excels, it can often take a while for a freestyle 'scene' to establish itself in any given hall, but again Hemel are well on their way. Perhaps the fact that many of the locals and 'park technicians' are part of the old Hemel dry-slope crew is the main reason for this, also the man in charge, Ceiri, is keen to see big development in this area. So far the park crew, consisting of long time local legend Duncan Carr and loose cat James Fuller along with wonder welder Steve Terry have an abundance of rails to slide and features to bonk as well as shaping a different kicker every week.
Freestyle 'Park and Ride' evenings take place every Friday (7pm-11pm) and Saturday nights (8pm-10pm) with a slightly scaled down mini-park. There are plans to have some features out on the slopes all through the week, really cementing Hemels dedication to freestyle.
The technicians are always on hand at these times and you will see them meticulously rotating their grooming duties amongst the park without ever getting in the way or shutting down the features for too long.
Without a doubt, it is these guys who make the freestyle nights work so well so far and are really behind it and also riding it rather than just seeing it as a job. Don't forget to say thank you!
Considering the short time it has been open, the parks are already well established and respected amongst the freestylers out there who come every friday, these are the busiest times so be prepared, wear a helmet and look out for your fellow users as the standard can vary quite considerably.
The park layout can be viewed on facebook often up to a day in advance so you know what's in store, a great idea and just one way Hemel are shaping up to be pretty savvy in the park/youth market. With pictures of the night often finding their way on to there facebook page before the night is even finished!
4 hours freestylin will cost you £50, but become a member or be an existing member of SCUK and you can reduce this cost significantly making your time on the slope seem even more worthwhile.
They've also got a facebook page worth checking out for updates
As of yet in the English indoor halls we've yet to create a freeriding environment with trees and cliff drops!! Whether that will ever happen is another question altogether, but the slope is long enough to brush up on your technique or dial in your carves if this is what your after, but don't expect mammoth leg burners even if the walls do go some way to creating this effect with the lavishly Alp-esque themed murals!
unlike many of the other indoor slopes Hemel is not wrapped up in a glossy shopping mall layered with cinemas and eateries, which depending on your preference for commercialism can be a good or bad thing. What it does ensure is that Hemel is all about the snow and the slope, leaving other such commercially driven politics to one side. There is a Snow & Rock on location although they have yet to get involved in any events or the scene which is something that should change, however if its just gear your after then you could do worse as they are pretty well stocked and carry a wide variety of ski and snowboard brands. Rather puzzlingly they also have a Cycle Surgery within the shop..
Move upstairs and your welcomed by the well thought-out Edge bar, offering large viewing areas of the slope from the bar and lounge area. Here you can also access the balcony for a better, if considerably colder, view of the action.
Hemel is definitely here to stay and provide a great experience for anyone who visits, the superb lighting make for a very relaxed airy feeling environment that is hard to find at some of the other halls. Having achieved so much so early on e.g freestyle nights, holding competitions and ever changing set ups they have almost made the job of improving it quite tricky, but you can be sure they will keep trying.