Skiing Without Snow

While artificial ski slopes are not likely to replace the real thing, they can come in very handy for skiing enthusiasts to brush up on their skills out of season, and provide and exciting pastime in areas that don’t traditionally get real snowfall or conditions cold enough to maintain artificially generated snow. Dry ski slopes attempt to mimic the attributes of snow in various ways, and some centers use mist or mini water jets to moisten the slopes to reduce friction and heat buildup and increase speed.

The United Kingdom has quite a number of dry slopes, generally as part of larger sports and entertainment centers. The most commonly used dry slope surfaces are Dendix and Snowflex. Both are made with plastic bristles, but Dendix has diamond-shaped spaces between strips of bristles, while Snowflex has bristles with no gaps. Skiers who have made involuntary contact with the bristles tend to agree that Snowflex is more forgiving than Dendix when falling on it, while those who have enjoyed the real thing agree that snow remains the preferred substance to collide with. Nevertheless, these artificial slopes provide a lot of fun and great opportunities to tone the muscles used in snow skiing while working on the basics of this popular snow sport.

Snow simulators offer another option for skiing without snow. Also referred to as ‘infinite slopes’, snow simulators are available in various sizes and with different levels of capability, from the most simple treadmill-style model, through to slopes that move to increase and decrease the level of decline one would experience when traveling down a real slope. Some even have large screen displays for skiers to focus on to enhance the real ski-slope experience.

Other snowless skiing experiences include roller-skiing, which uses specially adapted skis on wheels to travel on tarmac in much the same way as cross country skiers glide across the snow, and grass skiing which uses skis with rolling treads or wheels to travel downhill over grass. In addition to helping alpine skiers hone their skills, grass skiing has developed into a sport in its own right with competitors vying for the annual Grass Skiing World Cup.