Sunday, May 04, 2014

Reading Skiplex - first impressions

We were at Reading Skiplex yesterday for the first time. There are two ramps like the one below in a bright, spacious, light-industrial-type building. Stepping onto the stationary mat (resembles a thin-texture company carpet)  is a slightly strange experience: the static friction is quite high and your skis don't slide. As the belt is turned on there's a sharp jerk and the friction is suddenly far less. Occasionally the instructor hoses the surface down as you'll see in a video in a moment.

Alex and instructor Ollie

We all, in our various ways, found it difficult. Skiplex is extremely unforgiving of less-than-perfect technique and getting it wrong means the skis catch and you fall over, or you're swept off the mat area. The instructor is impressively fast with his portable kill switch.

Skiplex is progressive in its skill development: see here for the Skiplex logbook with its ten levels. The question we asked ourselves: how much are you just learning to ski on the Skiplex mat with all its strangeness and uniqueness, and how much of this transfers to snow as value-added? As you would expect, the staff are reassuring on this point - but we think it needs a little more exploration.

Here's a video of Adrian, an experienced skier, dealing with Skiplex in its faster-steeper mode. We did some more videos which can be found in this folder.

At the end of our session, one of the staff told us about a snowboarding instructor who had cranked the machine to its full speed and gradient on his first day of employment. Trying to do a turn, the snowboard edge had caught, and he'd been propelled into the air. Two somersaults later, he banged his head landing, and was knocked out. That instructor now concentrates on skiing.

We were also told that significant progress can be made in six lessons (their package) but it depends on getting stuck in and not being frightened of falling over and acquiring bruises. Never, it appears, was 'no pain, no gain' more apt.