Snozone at Xscape, Milton Keynes
5 reviews from the community
Review of "Snozone at Xscape, Milton Keynes"
I finally learnt how to ski earlier this year, in the beautiful French Alps, and I loved it. The ski season only tends to be from December to April so desperate for another ski fix I tried the next best thing - Snozone at Milton Keynes!I'd heard a lot about it, that as well as having real snow - ooooooooh - it's the UK's LONGEST real snow slope - aaaaaaaah! I didn't actually choose to go there myself, it was a work function, but who am I to say no to a FREE session of skiing!
Snozone is located in the Milton Keynes Xscape Centre. We got there by road and it's really easy to find - once you come off junction 14 of the M1 you'll soon spot signs to guide you round the city's multitude of roundabouts.Our group booking was made and paid for by telephone approximately a month in advance for about 30 people so Snozone were more than prepared for us. You can also book and pay online. There were seven of us booked for a two-hour recreational ski/snowboard session, some five people booked for 45 minutes tobogganing and the rest of the group split having either a ski or board lesson for one hour. Two days before our session we had a call to say we could only have one hour of recreational ski/boarding. Hiccup number one!
For a recreational session, you must be able to control your speed, link your turns and use the dreaded poma lift. They're quite basic skills but if you can't do these things then you'll just endanger yourself as well as endangering (and annoying) other people. Nobody checked our capabilities when we got there though, we were just handed our passes, but they do warn that if you aren't good enough you'll be asked to leave the slope and no, you won't get a refund.The Snozone booking cost includes the provision of skis/boards, boots, helmets and poles. You need to wear warm, waterproof clothing but you can hire jackets and saloppettes at £5 a pop. Many of my colleagues - well, all but the seven of us booked on recreational ski/board - required clothing hire which we were at first told would be no problem. Hiccup number two - a week after booking we had a call to say Snozone couldn't accommodate our request. Not even partly. They weren't going to be able to hire out clothing to a single member of our party. So that left some the seasoned skiers loaning their spare gear and the rest of our group having to run around trying to find waterproofs. If and when you book, check and double check that they can definitely loan you some waterproofs, else make sure you have your own. It was probably a blessing in disguise that Snozone couldn't accommodate our needs for clothing hire as the stuff they hire out stinks! There are a few shops in the Xscape centre that sell the bigger brands of ski and snowboard gear but be prepared to pay a heck of a lot.
There are changing rooms and lockers at Snozone; the lockers will cost you £1 which is non-refundable. The lockers are huge so we managed to fit three people's possessions between two lockers (not enough pound coins to go around)! The toilets are in the changing room area - no loo roll! - and there are showers too apparently but we didn't bother using them.One thing you'll need - and which Snozone don't provide at all - are gloves. Believe me, if you don't wear any you will soon regret it. The temperatures are below freezing, you are likely to fall, you'll need to grab the poma lift… Please wear some gloves! You can buy them on site but you'll be forking out £10.00 for them. They must make a fortune out of people who forget to bring gloves!
Snozone staff will kit you out with boots and skis, but they only asked us what size boots and skis we wanted and how much we weigh. Considering we had mostly novices in our group I would have expected the staff to offer some guidance. It was up to me and my colleague to advise the others about how the boots should fit and feel but I consider this to be something the staff should be advising as not every group is going to have someone with them who is already experienced.So now you've got your pass, you're kitted out and ready for some action! There are some barriers saying passholders only past this point (but nobody checking, unsurprisingly!), you pass the barriers, grab some poles from the rack if you'd like to use them, through the automatic doors and that's it, you're there!
To be perfectly honest, you won't need poles at all. The slope is not all that impressive. In fact, it's hugely disappointing. To your right there's a nursery slope and a poma lift. The nursery slope only goes up about halfway and it's really gentle; this is where the beginners had their lessons. In front of you and to the left is the main slope with another poma lift to the far left. The recreational slope is pretty gentle too, in fact there was not much difference between that and the nursery slope, except for the very top which is every so slightly steeper. There are not many bumps although there are some pillars dividing the recreational slope in to two parts and creating crosses, as well as a small jump. The bottom half of the left part of the main slope was sectioned off so the tobogganers could have their 45 minutes (which turned out to only be 30 minutes) of fun; once they were done the section was opened back up to the skiers and boarders. Ski slopes are ranked as one of four levels of difficulty: green - easy; blue - medium; red - hard; black - very hard! This slope didn't seem to have a ranking but in all honesty I would say it is a green. Or a very easy blue at most!The two poma lifts are easy enough to use; position yourself at the bottom of the drag and grab the pole as it swings round putting it between your legs with the little cushion under your bum and away you go! It's really really slow and it stops a lot! On two occasions, there were only two of us going up and it stopped! Why? Who knows? Nobody had fallen off, nobody had fallen anywhere near the lift. The really annoying thing was that the staff took their time in getting the poma going again, so much so that we very nearly decided to just get off where we were! Plus it really hurts when the poma stops suddenly like that!
The good point was that there were hardly any other people there when we were there; we practically had the whole slope to the seven of us! The bad point was that the slope is only 170 metres long. Seriously! This is meant to be the UK's longest real snow slope, and it takes all of 20 seconds at the most to get down. Booooorrring! It's mostly flat all the way down, except for the jump in the middle, so you don't really get to do much except go left and right a handful of times before you're at the bottom again. The thing that really got me was the quality of the snow. OK, non-skiers are going to be thinking, "Madwoman, snow is snow!" The snow at Snozone is just so icy, not just crisp, but has huge ice patches. It took me by surprise the first time I went down the slope and I lost control. After the first go I was fine but you do need good reflexes to keep control. There were even a few big chunks of ice which makes it rather treacherous. Actually, with the slope being so gentle and short, those icy patches were the most exciting part!Now, because we were a large group there was probably some sort of discount negotiated and because our boss paid I don't know the actual cost of our session. However, as a guide I can tell you that for adults 45 minutes of tobogganing is £15.50 per person, 1 hour of recreational ski/boarding is £21 per person peak time and 1 hour group lesson is £27 per person. I think the group lesson prices are quite reasonable, but the instructors didn't seem that good to be fair. The recreational pass though is just not worth it! You'd pay that for a full day's pass in the Alps with a whole array of slopes to choose from!
I was chatting to the snowboard instructor who advised me that private lessons are £150 per hour. For that price, seriously, you could get yourself a Ryanair flight, ski pass and private lesson in the real mountains! My private lessons in the French Alps were €70 per hour with the International Ski School, instructed by someone who grew up in the mountains and who had learned to ski as soon as he could walk. I was skiing down blue slopes (medium difficulty) after my first hour with him, yet the guys having the ski lesson at Snozone barely knew how to get their balance after their hour. Plus, if you only do your lessons in here then you will have a bit of a shock when you do go skiing or snowboarding in the mountains because, for a so-called REAL snow slope, the Snozone doesn't give a realistic impression of how the real slopes feel at all.We did have fun, but most of this came from laughing at the wipe outs. I think that Snozone would be good for having a couple of snowboard lessons before heading off on a snow holiday to learn properly. The ski lessons don't seem to be very good but at least you could learn to get your balance and gain some confidence before a holiday. The private lessons - don't even go there! You could go to Andorra for the day for that amount of money. The recreational pass is not worth it, just save up the money you'd spend on a few hours there and go to the real slopes for a few days instead.
For those interested, there is a bar as well as a café in Snozone, but we didn't go to either so I don't know what they're like. Plus there are plenty of other bars and restaurants in the Xscape centre that you can choose from.If you fancy trying the Snozone at Milton Keynes have a look at http://www.xscape.co.uk/snow/milton-keynes/whats-inside/snowslope/ for more information including the full price listing or call 0871 222 5670.
Product Information : Snozone at Xscape, Milton Keynes
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Listed on Ciao since: 04/09/2002