BOASTING the UK’s longest indoor snow slope and offering guaranteed white stuff 364 days of the year, the recently revamped Snow Factor can justly claim to be Scotland’s sixth “real snow” snowsports resort.
Bought by mountaineer-turned-businessman Jamie Smith at the end of 2011, the facility – part of the Xscape complex at Braehead – has gone through some major changes in the past 12 months. In addition to a £1 million investment in lifts, snowmaking and rental gear, Smith has created Bar Varia – a ski-in, ski-out Bavarian themed bar and restaurant accessible from the slope via a new link bridge.
There have also been genuine attempts to engage with the skiers and boarders who regularly use Snow Factor. When Smith took over, representatives from around 40 ski and snowboard clubs were invited to contribute suggestions on how facilities could be further improved. Many of these recommendations have been implemented – including better snowmaking and permanent park features – and visitor numbers are now up 22 per cent on last year to around 5,000 a week.
The snowsport area is divided into two main sections: a nursery slope with a rookie freestyle park in the middle and the main, 200m long slope, with either freestyle features or a slalom course set up on one side, depending on the day you visit.
Fresh, evenly groomed snow, no wind, no ice, not even the remotest possibility of getting lost... if you can’t learn to ski or board here, well, you should probably think about trying a different sport. Snow Factor has one of the biggest teams of permanent instructors in the UK, qualified to teach from complete beginners right through to advanced. Taster classes are available for those who have never tried skiing or snowboarding before, and if you’re looking to get good in a hurry, they offer an intensive, eight hour “board or ski in a day” package. Private family lessons are available and the school holiday Snow Camps are very popular.
Progressing from riding around on the flat to tackling jumps and rails can seem like a daunting step, but Snow Factor is a good place to make the transition. There’s a permanent, entry level terrain park on the beginner slope, where novices can start small and gain confidence, and – again – instructors are available if you need expert advice. Those looking to brush up on the basics before their next road trip up north, meanwhile, could hardly ask for a more forgiving environment in which to regain their snow legs.
On Thursdays and Fridays, part of the main slope is turned into a serious freestyle park, with boxes, rails, large kickers and more. The features change from week to week, but detailed park plans are posted on the Snow Factor’s Facebook page so you can find out what to expect before you visit. Meanwhile, for racers looking to shave a few milliseconds off their personal bests, a slalom course is set up on the main slope every Tuesday.
With panoramic views over the River Clyde and a huge viewing deck overlooking the slopes, Bar Varia is a great place to watch the action during the day, while by night it plays host to regular live music events. Oh, and you’re only ten minutes’ drive from Glasgow city centre, so if you want to go on somewhere else afterwards, you’re not exactly short of options.
Altitude: Approx 40 metres Pisted runs: 200m Longest run: 200m Number of lifts: 4 – Two rope tows, 2 poma tows Number of runs: 2 – 1 beginner slope, 1 main slope Uplift capacity: 250 per hour Snowmaking: Yes Cafes/restaurants: 1, beside slope Off piste: No Ski/snowboard school: Yes Ski snowboard hire: Yes – included as standard so no additional cost Ski/snowboard clothing hire: Yes – and discounted if pre-booked Shop: Yes. Snow Factor is within the giant Xscape facility, which also houses major outdoor retailers Artificial slope: Depends on your definition, I suppose – the snow’s manufactured artificially, but it’s 100 per cent real. Ski guiding: Sure, if you like. You probably won’t need it though. Sledging/other snow fun: Yes. Sledging park next to the entry level terrain park on the beginner slope. Terrain park: Yes. A permanent entry level park on the beginner slope, with more expert features built on the main slope on Thursdays and Fridays. Webcams: No
New for 2012/13 Improved snowmaking and lifts Permanent terrain park in the beginner’s area Bar Varia – Bavarian themed ski-in, ski-out bar and restaurant. Link bridge from bar to slopes
Plans for a 14m ice-climbing wall