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Skiing in Singapore
IF you are a powder chaser - as in the snow kind - you don't have to wait till ski season to do that.
In fact, you can just head down to a shopping mall to hit the slopes at Urban Ski - the first indoor revolving ski slope centre in Singapore.
The experience is surprisingly as real as being on a snowy slope, but without the cold, of course.
The concept is new to Singapore, but the technology behind an indoor ski slope has been around for some time now, and it is popular in Europe.
Urban Ski has two such slopes, which can be inclined up to 20 degrees and which can move at different speeds, via remote control. The slopes keep moving, so you find yourself constantly skiing or snowboarding. There is also a full-length mirror in front of each slope, so that users can see themselves as they go through their paces.
May Lee and Lynn Chang, an avid skier and snowboarder respectively, are behind Urban Ski. "We saw many Singaporeans posting pictures of themselves on the slopes, and saw that there is a demand for such a service," says Ms Lee, who has been actively skiing for the last five years, in Italy, France and Japan.
She expects Urban Ski to be popular with both locals and the expat crowd. "We get a mix of curious folks, beginners and those who already can ski or snowboard, who want to improve on their technique," she says. Urban Ski opens today, after nine months of planning. The duo decline to say how much they spent setting up Urban Ski. They are also the exclusive distributor of Dutch brand Maxxtracks ski slopes in Singapore.
The slopes are made up of special nylon tufts, which feels prickly upon touch, but is actually soft.
That means you're not likely to end up with a sprained wrist or achy rear if you were to fall on it. Water is sprayed on the turf to make it easier to glide on. You don't get the feel of the snow spray on your legs, but you do get a little wet.
"The good thing is, you can come here, strap on and start skiing or snowboarding, without having to wear all that thick winter gear," says Ms Chang, who has been snowboarding in Japan for the last five years.
The ideal gear is to come dressed comfortably. Ski and snowboots are provided, but you are welcome to bring your own. Skis and snowboards are also available. "We require participants to use ours, because they have been conditioned for use on the turf," says Ms Chang. Protective gear, such as helmets and knee pads are provided too.
Urban Ski has two full-time instructors and six part-time ones. All of them possess the relevant teaching certifications. It offers two kinds of lessons. Private ones cost S$270 for an hour, while group lessons, which are limited to six people, are S$90 each per hour. "We will group participants of the same level together," says Ms Chang.
For safety reasons, all participants have to be accompanied by an instructor while on the slope.
Swedish instructor Jimmy Holmgren who has been teaching skiing and snowboarding for over 10 years, says that apart from the cold, learning how to ski on a real slope and on an indoor slope is similar. "You still need the same techniques," he says. For those who like to do tricks, he says that this can be done on the indoor slope as well.
"But spending time on the slope is more efficient," he says. By that he means, there are no ski lifts to wait for, and no need to climb up slopes if needed. "You spend more time doing the activity, which is the fun part," he says. "One hour spent on this indoor slope is equivalent to four hours on an outdoor one."
Fellow instructor Aaron Lord, who is from the UK and has been teaching for over seven years says the right ski or snowboarding techniques are easier to learn on an indoor slope.
"Being able to watch the instructor in the mirror and mimicking his moves helps a person learn faster," he says. And if you fall, the moving platform can stop immediately, without any worry of tumbling down the slope unlike on a real mountain.
Ms Chang says: "Being on an indoor slope won't take away the thrill of being on an outdoor one. For one, we can't simulate the wintry environment, nor the experience of being on a ski lift." But what participants can get out of this, is to pick up techniques, which they can then apply onto the mountain slope. "You become more aware of your technique. So you want to get better here, to fully enjoy the experience when you are on the mountain," she says.
For part-time instructor, Funky T, just being able to snowboard on a slope is good enough. "When you can't get enough of powder, this is just as satisfying."
Urban Ski is located at Millenia Walk, #01-46/47/48/49. Opening hours from 10am to 10pm. Bookings are necessary via firstname.lastname@example.org