Updated: Sep 24, 2020
Whether getting started, fine tuning your skills, or looking to stay sharp during the off season, Indoor Ski Training Centers offer plenty to challenge and prepare you to take it to the next level on the mountain. Few seasoned skiers in North America have experienced this “indoor burn.” That’s where the Inside Ski Training Center comes into play. Part treadmill, part astroturf, these simulators have been more prevalent overseas, but are now becoming more available in the United States with facilities in Minneapolis, Orlando, Denver, San Francisco, San Diego, and DC.
Indoor skiing is an important outlet for starting out, improving your skill set, coming off of an injury, or racers looking for an edge. An hour’s drive from the nation’s capital in historic Leesburg, VA, Nancy and Brian Deely's Inside Ski Training Center has the only infinite slope in the Mid-Atlantic. Inside Ski’s “snow treadmill” will have you shredding within 15 minutes. I was lucky enough to try it this fall, and by the end of my 30-minute session, I was longing for colder temperatures and blistering winds!
Indoor Ski - Explained
Inside Ski is a massive treadmill with an artificial turf surface misted with water that simulates snow. The turf cycles at a max speed of 15mph and the slope angles range from 13° to 17.5°. The friction generated between the skis/board is much greater than that experienced outside, but if your form is good here, it bodes well...the converse may not be true. No cheating here!
There is a semi-transparent mirror at the bottom of the slope where you can watch yourself and make real time changes based on feedback from the instructor. The instructor is able to gain perspective from all four sides.
The instructor controls the speed and pitch from a console or handheld remote equipped with a safety shutoff. A rip cord stop is positioned at shin level around three sides should you fall and need to stop it yourself.
The Experience – Breaking Down the Session
Nancy Deely, the shop owner, warned us that a 30-minute session was the equivalent of 2-3 hours of slope time. Session options can be private or for groups of up to 3 people. Sessions can be purchased individually or packages of 4, 8 and 12 sessions are available (hint, better value comes with more sessions). For the full range of options, see here.
Scott Cover, a PSIA certified ski instructor at nearby Liberty Mountain Resort, led my 30 minute training session. The 30-minutes were broken down into three 10-minute sessions, separated by much needed breaks.
Requirements for Indoor Skiing
Long sleeves, long pants, ski socks and a helmet (ski or bike works) are required and a water bottle is recommended. You can use you own boots but not your own edges. If needed, all equipment and helmet are provided at no extra charge. The turf shears off and combines with water, creating a white paste on the skis (it easily comes off with water). The skis run about 10-20cm shorter than normal and the edges are dulled to prevent damage to the turf.
Getting Up and a Sense of the Slope
First 10 Minutes
This left my legs and muscles spasming. Movement up/down the slope required using a pizza pie or wedging into position in the middle. After moving off the bar and understanding how much resistance the turf provided, I moved horizontally along the slope and slowly formed a wedge, moving side-to-side using my downhill ski edge.
Becoming Comfortable with Wedge Turns
Second 10 Minutes
I started to feel more confident and began turning across the slope in a wedge. It started to feel more like snow, but I was still not completely comfortable. I sat back in my boots to keep a stable, wide base. Using a lot of muscle, I generated side-to-side movement via the downhill ski edge. Scott noticed and instructed me to stand 90° to the slope. Looking to the mirror for feedback, I compared my stance to the railing along the slope edges. I repositioned and carved for a few more minutes.
Transitioning from Wedge Turns to Parallel Turns
Final 10 Minutes
For the third and final run, the surface speed increased and I worked to stand up straighter. With increased speed, it started to feel more like actual snow and I began paralleling. Experienced skiers know the feel of digging their edges in, but here, this can lead to catastrophic results. Instead, you need to maintain a more even stance and use your weight to slide across the surface. My last session ran long as I tried to parallel, but still felt constrained by how tough it was to dig in my edges. I slid back to the bottom...clearly, I am still a work in progress!
Indoor Ski has tremendous benefits for a range of skiers. Highlights include:
Developing solid fundamentals. The controlled environment and real-time feedback enable tweaks to adjust form and improve the fundamentals. The higher resistance of the slope surface is also likely to translate to an easier time on the snow.
Feel the burn. Andrew was dubious that 30 minutes was equivalent to 2-3 hours on the mountain. After some adjustment to the simulator, the experience starts to feel more like the real thing. No doubt, this is appreciably more than 30 minutes on the mountain (no breaks on the chairs, waiting for friends, etc.).
Instant instructor feedback. A 360° view while you are “in motion” means instructors can provide targeted and specific feedback. Whether you are just starting out, need help compensating for an injury, or want to sharpen your form/skills, this is a great opportunity.
Comfort and convenience. The controlled environment (~70°F) means no dealing with the elements, little gear, minimal hassle and low commitment.
Boot fitting. After a detailed fitting and boot purchase at Pro-Fit Ski & Mountain Sports next door, you can try your new boots out to further refine the fit. No more pain on the slopes in the early days!
While not intended to be a substitute for the great outdoors, the Indoor Ski Training Center clearly has an important role in skiing and riding.
Andrew's Ski Background
Andrew has been skiing injury-free since he was three years old! He skis with all experience levels, rarely says no to jumping off something, and will crush groomers (even when hungover) with the best of them. He is in good shape (runner & mountain biker) and did little-to-no physical prep prior to his session.
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