The UK's longest and largest indoor real snow slope. Freestyle is pricey but promising; good potential!
The Chill Factor[E] is the UK’s newest, and largest, indoor slope. Based in Manchester, it’s easy to find as it’s just off the M60 ring road, junction 10, next to the Trafford Centre.
So is it any better than the other indoor slopes? Well, the marketing blurb is all about improved design, and in some ways they’ve achieved this.
First, the extra length and width, along with the suspended button lifts definitely creates a larger slope. With space being such a premium for our indoor slopes, the extra size is a definite plus.
They’ve also provided much better viewing from two balconies that overlook the slope. It’s easy to see everything that’s going on; an obvious benefit for your average punter, but it's also good for competition scenarios.
However, the Chill FactorE has arguably made a blunder with its over-engineered ticket system. You've got to insert your ticket into three machines before you can get on a lift - it can be a faff.
Beginners. Dry slope or indoor snow? What's it going to be? The experience of snow comes at a premium but it's a more natural feel and definitely closer to the real thing. The Chill FactorE has a dedicated beginners slope with rope lifts to keep things easy. There's even a special conveyor belt for the absolute beginner - making ascent a non-factor.
A package of 3 x 1 hour and 50 minute lessons will cost an adult £150 during peak hours, and £130 off-peak. Everyone learns at their own pace, so if you're not ready to use the slope by yourself after this course, the Chill FactorE has guided practice sessions and private lessons.
The Chill FactorE is consistently receiving good feedback regarding their instructors, who are highly qualified, so you'll be in good hands. Gloves are a must on the slope, and are available to buy (along with hats and socks) if you need them. Jackets and pants can be hired for £3 if you book in advance, or £5 if you hire on the day. Snowboard and boot hire is included in all prices.
Freestyle. The scene isn’t as established as nearby rival slopes such as Castleford Xscape yet. At the moment there is only one weekly freestyle session, which is on a Saturday night, and park team is still in the process of getting together all of their jibs and rails, so they don't have as much to put out as they'd like. That and the fact that there are currently many more 'recreational' users than freestyle'rs, means that the park night only uses half of the slope.
However, freestyle at the Chill FactorE has a lot going for it. They've got a dedicated, ambitious team working on the park and their shaper, Pat Sharples, is deservedly, highly regarded. They build their weekly kicker two days before it's to be used and then just let it set. The result is a well shaped, tough kicker, capable of holding its form throughout the night. Good kickers to ride. They also have freestyle coaches on the slope throughout; anyone can use them.
In addition, the size of the slope holds good promise for their park. It can't be long before the park takes over the whole slope, which will provide great variety and longer lines. There are also plans to host airbag sessions and build bigger parks - so watch this space.
Freeriding. It's a similar deal to the other indoor slopes. Anyone serious about freeriding will find nothing of interest here. If you're moving from beginner to intermediate the extra slope length will be appealing. It's a good venue to improve your linked turns and brush up before an annual holiday.
Pricing & Membership. If you're accustomed to the Xscape prices the cost of snowboarding here may appear a little steep. However, upon closer inspection you'll find that Chill FactorE has targeted their prices at different session durations; depending on how long you want to board for, the cost may actually be cheaper, and there are also good concessions for students. One area where you'll currently miss out is the freestyle night. It's effectively £44 for four hours, which doesn't stack up well.
Chill FactorE does however have an ace up it's sleeve: annual membership. For £100 an adult receives a 30% discount on all future prices. That, and you get a swipe-pass for the ticket system making it more like being in a resort and less of a hassle to get to a lift. If you plan on using the slope a lot, this will save you cash.
Facilities. Lining the resort-esque cobbled street which will appeal to some, is a good selection of shops such as Snow + Rock and Adrenaline Junkie. Be sure to check out Subvert: it's got a great selection of all things snowboarding, they have demo boards available for use and the people working there know their stuff.
Summary. A couple of design tweaks and some extra space give the Chill FactorE some extra potential.