Monday, 30 April 2018

A Family Ski Lesson with Snozone in Castleford, West Yorkshire! - A Review

Last year we visited Snozone in Milton Keynes to experience a family sledging session. We saw some amazing skiing and snowboarding during our visit and we left extremely impressed with the facilities that were on offer. Before we had even left our sledging session, we had all agreed that we would love to return to Snozone in the future to enjoy a family skiing lesson.

This weekend the attraction launched their Snozone Summer of Snow Party, which provided us with the perfect opportunity to return and put our skiing skills to the test.  The party featured prizes, children's activities, freestyle demonstrations and special offers, as well as some FREE face painting and badge making. If that wasn't enough the restaurant was offering an amazing range of Tapas dishes, food and drink and Snozone had also teamed up with partners Andorra, Tog24 and Crystal Ski to provide both guests and members with some great deals.

Snozone is a family friendly attraction and snow sports facility. It currently has two venues in the UK with one being based in Castleford, West Yorkshire and the other in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire. Each site provides real snow slopes for skiing and snowboarding as well as offering snow experiences such as sledging and family snow play sessions, making it the ideal place to learn, develop and have some fun. They were also voted the Best Sporting Venue 2017/2018 by the School Travel Awards, for excelling in learning outside the classroom for school children.

We couldn't wait to visit again, though this time we chose to visit their Castleford site instead, which was 1 hour 25 minutes away from our home in North Wales. It was a really easy drive along the M62 and as we got closer, there were plenty of signs to show us where to exit. As soon as we left the motorway, we could see the huge Xscape building in the distance and the kids started to get really excited as we drove nearer.

On arrival, we were surprised to find that it was free parking. The Xscape building also houses many other entertainment venues and restaurants, so we were quite shocked that there was no charge to park. We made our way through the main entrance and followed the overhead signs to Snozone, where we were then welcomed at the reception desk.

We provided our reference number and the Snozone representative brought up our booking details. She told us the name of our instructor and wrote down our clothing sizes so that she could go and get some appropriate warm ski wear for us. You can bring your own ski clothing or you can hire it for a cost of £9.99 per person. Due to hygiene reasons, you must provide your own socks and gloves, but should you forget these, then they are available to purchase from the Snozone shop. This can obviously increase the cost of your visit though, so its best to try and remember to bring them with you.

Once we had collected all our clothing, we made our way over to the changing rooms. There are numerous individual changing cubicles, along with a further two communal changing areas for males and females with toilets. We chose to use the individual cubicles which were located next to the lockers, where you could leave your possessions for safe keeping. These required a £1 coin, but this was refundable.

Now that we had our clothing on, we headed to the equipment hire desk where we were provided with boots. I would recommend going one size up to your usual shoe size for comfort as they are very tight fitting. You are advised to only wear one boot to begin with, as you then return to the desk with your other boot so that the skis can be adjusted to fit. I will be honest, I found the process of getting all my gear on quite a challenge and the instructor ended up helping me fasten my boots in the end. Luckily he was lovely and was more than happy to help.

The booking confirmation advises to arrive 45 minutes before a ski lesson and initially I thought that this was a very lengthy amount of time, but really it was actually extremely accurate. We arrived at 9:45 and were only just ready in time for our lesson start time of 10:30 so I would definitely say that you need to make sure you follow the information provided to ensure that you have plenty of time to get all kitted out.

Our instructor Adam, had already found us at the waiting benches whilst we were getting our boots on and our first impressions of him were great. He introduced himself to all the children and took note of everyones names. He asked a couple of questions about which members of our family had been skiing before and how confident we were. In turn I asked him a couple of questions too about how long he had been teaching for and when he first started skiing. I also explained to him that I had a fear of heights and of hurting myself, so was probably going to be a terrible student to teach. Adam was really reassuring though and rather than just laugh at me, he did his absolute best to encourage me right from start to finish. If I could have hand picked an instructor, he would definitely have been my choice. Great with the kids, patient, knowledgeable and friendly.

We waddled out to the nursery slope, I say waddled and that's because we all took a bit of time to adapt to the heavy boots, as well as carrying the skis. Once we were on the flat, we were shown how to clip into the skis and began with attaching just one ski to the boot. We then got used to them by going up and down on the flat imitating riding a scooter, to get used to the sensation of the skis gliding on the snow. My five year old son Riley had been very nervous prior to the start of the session, but he was absolutely loving it as he slid along the snow.

Our next step was to get clipped into both skis and then slide across the straight. Ben, Emma and Mr F have all been skiing before, but this was a completely new experience for Riley and I. It took a little bit of getting used to, though somehow I managed to maintain my balance. Once we had mastered the fine art of sliding, we were then shown how to open and close the skis in order to add some control to our movement. We were only approximately 20 minutes into the session when we went half way up the nursery slope and made a gentle slide down. The rest of my family found this super easy, but I will admit that I was so worried about taking a tumble.

Once everyone had accomplished that step, it was time to make our way to the top of the nursery slope. Again everyone but me found this remarkably easy, as you simply had to hold onto a rope which then pulled you to the top of the slope. I managed to hold the rope fine, but my release wasn't the most perfect and I needed the help of trusty Adam to get me to the flat section at the top.

Adam then explained that he would go down the slope with each of us one at time, so that we could get a feel for it first. I was amazed at how comfortable Riley was with Adam and was so proud when he made his first attempt to ski down the snow. The smile on his face once he had done this was fantastic and certainly a memory I will treasure.

As our family grew in confidence Ben, Emma and Mr F all made their way down the slope unaided numerous times gaining a little more speed and control on each occasion. Mr F did slightly misjudge one attempt though and ended up in a heap alongside the crash barrier, but this was all good fun and he was able to laugh it off and get straight back up to try again. Practice makes perfect as they say!

Towards the end of the session, Adam lay some cones out on the slope and my family took it in turns to steer around the cones with the skis and control the direction that they wanted to go. Ben in particular seemed to find this really easy and I was amazed when Riley also managed to do this too, with the added help of the instructor. I was so impressed with the skills that all my children showed during just a one hour session, it was definitely a proud mum moment.

The hour lesson had literally flown by and we all really enjoyed it. As we returned our ski equipment to the hire desk, Adam filled in some ski lesson cards and ticked off each skill that we had managed to achieve during the lesson. You can bring this card with you to any subsequent lessons and each time you complete a section it can be signed off by the instructor. I thought that this was a really good idea, as it makes it clear what you are capable of, but also what skills you need to achieve in the future.

We thanked Adam for his time and made our way back to the changing rooms to get back into our normal clothes. Despite the fact it is cold on the slopes, we were all really hot due to the amount of exercise we had just done, so it is clearly a great way to keep fit too! I later learnt that you can burn up to 400 calories an hour on skis or a snowboard. We were all thirsty so went to purchase some drinks before continuing to enjoy some of the other activities that were available.

We made our way up to the restaurant, where a lovely lady called Jill was offering free face painting for the children. She had some pictures available that you could choose from, but Riley had decided that he wanted to be Gecko from PJ Masks. Rather than just say no, Jill very kindly brought up a picture on her phone instead and used that for an idea to paint Riley's face. I thought that this was really kind of her and Riley was absolutely delighted. Emma then opted to have a snake and Ben chose a shark, both of which were fantastic.

Next to the face painting table, there was another area to make some badges. This was being ran by Louise who again was absolutely lovely with the children. Throughout the whole day, we were all made to feel so welcome and my kids really enjoyed doing this activity with Louise. There was a selection of pens, stamps and crayons to help create your chosen design and it was a really fun thing to do to end our day.

The restaurant had a great selection of food and drink on offer and in addition to the normal choices, there was also a fantastic tapas menu, that the chef had put together specifically for the Summer of Snow party. This was £16 for 6 dishes which were designed for two people to enjoy together. We had eaten a large breakfast that morning, so we were not hungry enough to sample this, which is a shame as the food smelt absolutely delicious and we would have loved to have tried this out.

Overall we had an absolutely fantastic day at the Snozone Summer of Snow Party and despite our lesson only being an hour long, we spent a total of four hours there enjoying the surroundings and activities. There is a large picture window in the upstairs restaurant so it was nice to observe some wonderful skiers making their way down the slopes. It is a really family friendly venue and all the staff that we met were brilliant with the children which is always reassuring. Our skiing lesson was really enjoyable and I couldn't have wished for a better instructor.

A lot of people may consider skiing or snowboarding to be a Winter activity only, but if anything Summer is the ideal time to learn, due to it being a quieter season. It is a great way to stay fit and active and due to the fact that Snozone are open 364 days a year, it makes it a great all year round activity to enjoy as a family or as an individual. My children are now keen to progress their skills, so there is no doubt that we will be returning to Snozone very very soon!

Important Information:

Milton Keynes address - Snozone Xscape, 602 Marlborough Gate, Central Milton Keynes, MK9 3XS

Castleford address - Snozone Xscape Castleford, Colorado Way, Glasshoughton, Castleford, West Yorkshire, WF10 4TA.

Telephone number - 0333 0030 520

Website - The Snozone website provides the most up to date information on pricing, lessons, courses, bookings and events. I would therefore always recommend visiting the attractions own website before visiting. Their website can be found here:

Alternatively, you can follow Snozone on social media. Their social media channels are:

Twitter - @snozone_uk
Facebook - SnozoneUK
Instagram - @Snozone
YouTube - SnozoneVideos

Disclaimer: We were invited as guests to the Snozone Summer of Snow Party Weekend and received a complimentary family skiing lesson for the purpose of writing an honest review of our experience. All opinions and photographs are my own.

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