XSCAPE Milton Keynes
Lift count : 2 x Drag-lifts
Ride area 270m
Situated about 50 miles North of London in the centre of the hole that is Milton Keynes, stands the Xscape centre; the first of now three real-snow indoor slopes. The others are located at Castleford (near Leeds) and Braehead (near Glasgow).
It resembles a big indoor carpark, but there are two 170m slopes side by side and a 100m beginners slope, although they feel a lot shorter. 2 pomo lifts serve the main slopes, and a magic carpet serves the beginners.
You pay per hour for use of the slopes, and the price includes board & boot hire if needed. You'll need to turn up with at least a pair of gloves, but its really not that cold to require all your winter clobber and don't be one of those knob-ends that wears their goggles.
Obviously terrain is extremely limiting, but that doesn't mean its a complete waste of time and it can satisfy that snow fix we all need when most of Europe is horribly green. Beginners can really benefit by booking a lesson well in advance. Unlike in a proper resort, within this closed environment the instructors actually look at what you're doing, and with little randomness in the conditions you can really steamroll that learning curve and leave there will a decent technique.
Intermedite and advanced riders forget it unless you want to practice your freestyle which is when this place really starts coming into its own. Most of the time due to staffing and insurance costs, all the rails and jumps will be closed and certainly not very well prepared, so look out for the special freestyle nights, which are now run every Thursday and Friday nights. The saturday Phat night no longer runs, but they are planning a little bit of freestyle.
If you're thinking of heading out on a thursday/friday then give them a call and find out whats going to be running or visit the SCUK website who often have a layout of whats going to be built. The Xscape website is pretty useless and rarely updated, and certainly no web-cams to look at.
On most of these nights you can expect 4 or 5 rails including a box, a kinked rail and sometimes a rainbow rail. Sometimes there'll be a kicker or two but the beast kicker they had 5 years ago has gone unfortunately. They were the first indoor slope to build a halfpipe, but there's no plans to repeat that.
An hour will cost you £20, the freestyle nights are much better value at £35 for up to 4 hours. The lifties and ticket checkers are a bunch of slack asses, so you can usually stretch your hour out for longer - just blame it on the lack of a clock. There is a bar upstairs and a restaurant ground level to take a beer and watch the grommets and away from the slope theres a climbing wall, cinema and plenty of bars to take a look at the pikey locals.
On the downside the snow is often bad quality with the occasional ice patch and the wooden boards can show through lift path and scratch your board. However you'll also get to see some of the UK's top talents such as Laura Berry and they often run special comps and events.