in this place!
This is the Chill Factor e, the UK's longest indoor real-snow slope. It's in Manchester, only about 20 minutes away from our house, so not nearly as long a journey as it would be to get to the Alps!
It's no secret that I really love the snow and because they know me so very well, my family couldn't have bought a better birthday present for me earlier in the year than this.
It was a voucher to spend at the Chill Factor e on anything that I liked. My husband and I used to go skiing before we had the girls. We have friends in Switzerland who taught us to ski and welcomed us every year until our families grew and it became impractical. We haven't actually skied together as a family at all. Small daughter isn't keen on all the layers she would have to wear - she's one of those people who doesn't seem to feel the cold and doesn't see why she should have to wear a coat if she's not cold, even it if is -5 degrees! Big daughter went skiing in Italy with the school a few years ago and wasn't overly impressed. I think skiing is a bit like Marmite (a dark brown yeast-based spread with a very distinctive taste) - you either love it or hate it. Personally, I can't stand Marmite but I do love skiing. And whilst I would happily spend all of our holidays in the snow, it wouldn't really be fair on everyone else.
So they sent me off to have my own little holiday in a snowy corner of Manchester. It's been a long time since I was last on skis so it seemed sensible to spend my voucher on a refresher lesson. I didn't want to pick the beginner lesson as I knew that I wouldn't have forgotten how to ski completely, but I also didn't want to choose an advanced lesson in case I wasn't as good in reality as I thought I was in my head!
In the end, after consultation with a nice man in the Chill Factor e customer services centre, I booked myself onto their new "What Level Am I?" lesson which would give me an opportunity to work out just how competent I was on skis. It felt very strange strapping my feet into ski boots again after so long, and I'd forgotten just how heavy skis are to carry! There were just two of us on the lesson, with an instructor called Geoff who was apparently known for his nice line in ridiculous hats. Today's hat looked like some kind of grey fluffy monster with long dangly ears. At least we wouldn't lose him on the slope! We headed off to the nursery slope - you can see it at the back of this picture by the mountains - to remind ourselves how to snowplough ...
then headed for the main slope.
Ohh, I can't tell you much I enjoyed it! The way the snow moves constantly under your skis, the bite of the air on your cheeks, the rush of the wind as you swish down the slope, that moment when it all comes together and you feel as if you're flying ... I was so pleased to find that I hadn't forgotten it all. I'm a bit rusty, as you'd expect after so long, but I could feel it all coming back to me and I knew that given a bit longer to practice, I would soon be as confident as I used to be. You can buy a lift pass to just go on the slope without having to book any lessons (as long as you're safe enough to do so) and I'm very tempted to do that one day.
It must be part of getting older, but I'm less interested in having "things" than "experiences" so this was the best sort of birthday present for me - although there's one part of it that I know I'm not going to be quite so keen on - I'm going to be very stiff in the morning!