Indoor snow domes are now a very popular way of introducing people to the world of snowsports. And for those already involved they provide a great way of continuing to practice. Back in the 80s, when I started my ski teaching career, outdoor artificial slopes, with different kinds of matting, were the only option for people in the UK and Ireland to ski outside of the winter season. And while outdoor artificial slopes still provide a good option for practising the indoor snow domes are very popular and provide an experience that is much closer to the real thing! So just how useful are they for practising and developing your snowsports skills? In this blog I look at what the key benefits are and how best to go about using these indoor environments to hone and develop skill.
I have heard both recreational and proficient skiers comment that "snow domes are boring" and I can understand this point of view if you simply ski or snowboard without purpose or structure. However, not many people can find the motivation or have the discipline to practice on their own, so being part of a group certainly enhances the experience. Even better is to join a dedicated performance training course such as the ones we run through Parallel Dreams Coaching. The video below is a short edit from our performance days last week at Chill Factore near Manchester. These are special days where the facility have created and shaped a section of moguls which adds an extra challenge for better skiers.
Key benefits of snow domes:
The environment and weather is very consistent
Unlike the mountain resorts, or outdoor artificial slopes, snow domes provide a very constant temperature usually between -3 and -4. Being indoors there are no adverse weather conditions to deal with such as wind, snow, rain, poor visibility etc.
Repetition on the same terrain
While the slopes are relatively short there is a great opportunity to practise specific drills and skills, over and over again, on the same terrain recognising that ultimately you will still need to get onto the 'big' mountain in order to develop the wider range of skills that an 'open' sport such as skiing demands. However, these environments can really help you to learn specific movement patterns necessary for good technique. There is certainly a 'parallel' to be drawn here with the world of climbing and the contrast between indoor climbing walls and climbing in the mountains.
Maintaining your skill level
When our guests ski with us in Chamonix and the Evasion Mont Blanc it is not uncommon for some to remark that with only one or two weeks a year on snow it is difficult to make much progress as they spend much of their week simply trying to get back to where they were the season before! This is why the indoor snow dome provides such a great opportunity as it allows for practice between winter seasons or indeed between holiday skiing weeks. Without a sufficient amount of practice is is difficult to become competent in any activity.
Man-made terrain features for freestyle skiing & snowboarding are very popular in snow domes such as boxes, rails, jumps etc. and most of these facilities have dedicated sessions/evenings for freestyle. Indeed British Freestyle skiing has benefited greatly from having these facilities available and they have certainly contributed to the recent success of the sport at World and Olympic level. Moguls, as mentioned earlier, are another man-made terrain feature that snow domes provide with many of the facilities (see links below) having specific dates where there are moguls.
Race training and competitions
For alpine ski racers snow domes are excellent for slalom training and centres like SnowWorld in the Netherlands are particularly popular with race clubs and even national teams. There are also lots of slalom competitions organised and our friends at Impulse Racing do a fantastic job of organising race events for schools.
Instructor training and certification
Whether it is continued professional development (CPD) for existing snowsports instructors, or the beginning of a journey in teaching snowsports, there are plenty of opportunities for ski and snowboard instructors to train and qualify in snow domes. A number of national snowsports instructor organisations offer their first level certification at these venues and this often provides a more cost effective way to gain a qualification. IASI, BASI, Snowsport Scotland and Snowsport England all offer courses throughout the UK. Find out more about becoming a ski instructor here.
It's all about the guest experience
Finally, it is worth mentioning that in today's modern world skiing and snowsports are competing with many other leisure activities hence it really is all about the guest experience and the onus is on each facility to provide an unforgettable experience that will keep people coming back. It is also important for the snowsports industry to understand the link between the indoor environment and the mountains so that guests continue to use both environments. A good friend and colleague of mine Pete Gillespie, who is head of snowsports at The Snowcentre Hemel Hempstead, has written about this very subject in chapter 13, 'The Guest Experience' in the Irish Association of Snowsports Instructor manual. It is well worth a read and can be accessed for free from our 'Documents and Tools' section of the Parallel Dreams website.
Indoor snow dome links
The following indoor snow domes in the UK and the Netherlands are venues for Parallel Dreams Coaching courses and/or IASI courses;