Bought by mountaineer-turned businessman Jamie Smith in 2011, the facility within the Intu Braehead Leisure complex (formerly known as Xscape Braehead) continues to benefit from an ongoing £2 million investment programme. There have been improvements to snow-making and lift infrastructure, and a link bridge has been built between the main piste and the Bar Varia restaurant, allowing ski-in, ski-out access.
This year saw the opening of a 15-metre high, 40-route ice climbing wall, offering challenges for beginner and expert alike, and the nursery slope now features a revamped 35m long ice slide down which participants (aged eight and over) can descend on a huge rubber doughnut.
The snowsport area is divided into two main sections: a nursery slope with a rookie freestyle park on one side of the “Gully”, and the main, 200m-long slope on the other, 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 employs highly qualified ski and snowboard instructors (some dual qualified), able to teach from beginner to advanced level. 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 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 instructors are available if you need expert advice. Those looking to brush up on 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. Budding junior racers can also sign up to be considered for Snow Factor Racing with regular training sessions on Sunday mornings.
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. You’re only ten minutes’ drive from Glasgow city centre, too, so if you want to go on somewhere else afterwards, you’re not short of options.
• Altitude: Approx 40 metres • Pisted runs: 200m • Longest run: 200m • Number of lifts: 3 – 1 rope tow, 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 Braehead Leisure Centre, 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 genuine frozen water. • 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 2013/14 • New 15m high ice climbing wall with 40 routes and overhang. Expert tuition and technical equipment provided.
• New 35m long ice slide suitable for participants aged eight and over.
Snow Factor, Xscape, Kings Inch Road,
Braehead, Renfrew, PA4 8XQ
• Tel: 0871 222 5672
• email: [email protected]