Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Moguls in Manchester

The entrance to the after-ski world

I like skiing, and my youngest son likes to visit aviation museums. When I booked a family trip to UK, both two randomly selected cities that we are staying at turned out to have an indoor ski hall and a museum with Concorde. What are the odds?

We are also lucky in that we can escape the rainy weather in Finland and UK and spend time in the beautiful mountain landscape (below).

I'm at the mountains! Really!

And we are not in any random ski area, either. Granted, it is indoors, but it is the best the UK has to offer. We are visiting the UK’s Premier Snowsports Centre of Excellence and the longest ski slope in UK. (Except according to those pesky wikipedia people whose metrics -- a "meter" -- are clearly non-standard in the empire.)

The Slope

We are at the Chill Factore, a 180-meter indoor ski slope near Manchester, UK. Seriously though, while this ski area is indoors and small by world standards*, our visit there was a lot of fun for three reasons.

*) I recently visited a 600-meter indoor ski slope in France.

First, most indoor ski hills are relatively flat. Chill Factore is not steep compared to outdoor ski hills, but it is markedly steeper than many indoor ones. For instance, the long slope in France was probably the most flat ski slope that I have ever seen.

Second, they had a moguls course! While I've seen some indoor ski hills that have one, this one was again markedly more difficult than the others. I am lousy at skiing bumps, but I ski easy courses at some speed. Here I found the skiing challenging.

And finally, I've never skied in UK before. This is country #31 on my quest to ski everywhere.


Chill Factore has just one main ski slope. In addition, there is a very small beginner's slope, a tubing area, and a luge. The latter seemed like a fun thing to try. I wish there would have been more time for me to do so, but we were running out of our allotted snow time.

Chill Factore has an annoyingly commercial and rigid reservation model. Or maybe they are just too popular to do it in another way. They recommend making reservations and buying tickets for a specific time beforehand. Interestingly, back in Finland when I made reservations for a 7:30 pm ski session at this place, the web site happily let me make the reservation. But when I showed up, it turned out that the reservation system displays local time, not UK time. So we were about two hours late from our reservation. Luckily the staff was friendly enough to change the tickets to the correct time.

A table at the Chilli's
The main slope

I must also say that this is the first time that I have seen an emergency fire exit in the middle of a ski slope. At the top of the hill there is a small rectangular building that allows the skiers to exit to safety, should the snow start burning.

Top of the main ski slope


Visually, most indoor ski places are an eye sore. Along with the Dubai ski slope, Chill Factore makes an exception. The building is modern, attractive, and well maintained. As one example of this, at the entrance to the ski slope from the mall area, there is a large window, a viewing terrace, and nicely lit escalators to the after-ski and restaurant area.

Window to the cold side

I did not have time to test the after-ski, but it was clear that the most interesting after-ski happens at Chilli's, a bar on the second floor above the bottom end of the ski slope. Chilli's has an outside terrace and excellent views even from the inside. They serve both drinks and food. The brunch options looked inviting for 2.50 £, and the most expensive meal, a warm sandwich, costs only 4.25 £. They do not serve anything complicated, but the pricing is reasonable for UK and for a ski area.


The fun part for the small kids

Chill Factore is small, but one of the most fun indoor ski areas that I have visited. This is mostly due to the moguls run, and the luge and tubing sections.

Important Parameters

It takes about 15 seconds to ski the slope, and typically about five minutes to get back up again.

Chill Factore is at a small shopping mall in the Trafford Quays Leisure Village, six kilometers from Manchester city center. I came from the airport by taxi, and paid 20 £ for this 20 minute trip.

There are several other attractions nearby as well. For instance, Airkix, an indoor sky diving establishment may be interesting. There is also a climbing wall.

Frontside entrance

Climbing wall with fake ski lift

Photo credits (c) 2012 by Jari Arkko and Janne Arkko

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