Where to hit the (real!) snow and ice locally
Winter Olympics got you thinking you (or your kids) could be the next skate, ski or boarding star? Here's where to find taster sessions and refresher courses locally, whatever your level, or ambition
HIT THE ICE
Well, not literally because that’ll hurt, but if you want to give the salchow a go, or indeed get started with speed skating or ice hockey, these are the places to go…
Planet Ice, Milton Keynes
The rink that’s been graced by the hallowed skates of Torville and Dean and been used for ITV’s Dancing on Ice is right on our doorstep! Plus it’s got ice skating and ice hockey lessons available for every age group and ability. What makes it such a stellar facility (apart from the celeb creds) is the range of lessons and courses, the Olympic-sized ‘ice pad’ and 2,000-plus seating capacity which means it can host large-scale events. There’s toddler lessons, adult or family small group lessons and ‘show and skate’ courses for those who just wanna twirl… Also check out the sister ice rink just over the Bucks border in Hemel Hempstead.
The whopping 56mx26m ice rink at Oxford has plenty of room for you to pirouette and go arse over skate without taking anyone out with you. It has basic group or 1-2-1 lessons and you can work towards badges (simple pleasures!). The skates and skate aids (for kids!) are available for hire and the opening times are work/family friendly with slots from 10am most days until as late as 10.45am. Ice hockey more your thang? This is the HQ of the Oxford City Stars ice hockey team, which is on the recruit for junior and senior players for next season – keep your eyes peeled for the upcoming ‘Learn to Play’ sessions including a programme for under 9s.
Alexandra Palace, London
If you fancy combining a trip to town with a whizz around the ice, the Ally Pally rink is open year-round. There’s adult lessons in the week, fast-track kids courses in the holidays and even ‘ice tots’ for 2.5 years olds and up (ice tantrum anyone?). There’s also drop-in sessions with Haringey’s ice hockey coach for a taster and a skate and coffee if it’s the social side you’re after. Or take that up a notch with an ice disco – keep an eye on its social for the next event.
HIT THE SLOPES
Gone are the days of muddy slopes covered in finger-dislocating webbing. We’ve got two indoor ski centres within reach and it’s real snow allll the way.
Snozone, Milton Keynes
If the Alps have proved out of reach in the last couple of seasons, snow bunnies have been able to get their hit at Snozone, Europe’s largest indoor ski centre. Whether it’s the alpine or freestyle skiing or snowboarding that you’ve got your eye on, it’s all available here with a 170m sloped plus jumps, kickers, rails and all sorts. Reckon you could be a candidate for the luge or bobsleigh? Book in for one of the family sledging sessions to test your nerve.
Snow Centre, Hemel Hempstead
What’s 10cm between friends? The Snow Centre’s 160m sloped is also open for groups and individual lessons for all abilities and has freestyle kit for the adrenalin junkies. There are specific skills camps dedicated to disciplines like slalom and moguls. Meanwhile, the Ringo Slide (basically whizzing down on an inflatable doughnut) will wheedle out the next gen of bobsleigh champs.
Despite having our medal hopes dashed on the curling front, Great Britain is up there with the best. While it’s biggest in Scotland, England has curling centres, though they are a bit of a schlep from Bucks/Oxon, at Fenton’s near Tunbridge Wells, The Flower Bowl near Preston and Cambridge Ice Centre. All have taster sessions and lessons.
Sledge fanatic? Go next level with a British Bobsleigh and Skeleton Association summer taster session at the University of Bath. Meanwhile, if you reckon biathlon is your sport (rifle shooting and skiing) check out the Wessex Biathlon and Nordic Ski Club summer courses in Wilts, Somerset, Devon, Dorset and Hants.
London Region Nordic Ski Club (londonnordic.org.uk) offers roller ski classes from £10, which is the first step to being a speed skater (that and tearing round your local rink…)
And now for some gentler winter activities…
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