Editor Victoria Galligan headed to the Chill Factore for some summer fun on the slopes. Read her review to see if snow life is for you…
In the height of summer, when the school holidays have made everyone forget what day it is and the heat is getting a little bit too much for the kids, there is no better way to spend the day than on a snowy mountainside in Manchester.
OK, so the Chill Factore isn’t a REAL mountainside but it certainly feels like one as you get ski suited and booted in the changing area. The huge windows in the entrance area looking onto the slopes beyond allow a glimpse of what is to come – my two young daughters were beyond excited to get out there onto the Snow Park and hurtle down the slides as fast as they possibly could. In fact, the excitement began on the M60 when we spotted the huge sloped indoor ski centre from afar!
Wrap up properly – it’s -4ºC!
So, after putting on our helmets and wrapping up in coats which had been at the back of the wardrobe since spring, we walked out onto the “snow”. The Chill Factore makes its own snow just like Mother Nature – from air and water. Except this is compressed air which is blasted out over the slopes every night.
As temperatures can dip to a chilly -4ºC during opening hours, it really is cold here and you will need decent boots, gloves and waterproof trousers. Luckily, if you forget anything the hire shop is there to accommodate visitors with the proper clothing. And as there is no biting wind as on a real mountain, plus the fact that you’re lugging sledges and inflatable rubber ‘donuts’ uphill for a full hour, you soon warm up!
A magical winter wonderland
The Snow Park is situated next to the main, higher slope which starts all the way at the top of the giant sloped building and is serviced by a ski lift. The Snow Park also houses Mini Moose Land for ages 3 and under – we had visited this section previously at a friends’ party and found its toys and mini slopes perfect for tots to try out the chilled life!
The girls loved crunching in the snow and picking it up to see how it felt – pretty much like real snow but a bit wetter – it doesn’t form into fluffy balls (so no snowball fighting here!) but gives you the slippy underfoot feeling and there is ice in places so you do have to walk carefully.
The feeling that you’re in a magical winter wonderland is enhanced by the huge mountain scene murals on the walls and there are fir trees dotted around the area to separate different sections. Mini reindeer and an igloo adorn Mini Moose Land and the atmosphere is fun, relaxed and friendly – numbers for each session are limited so you don’t have to queue for long, either.
So the girls headed at first to the donuts, which you can ride on your own or in a large donut with a friend. My thrill-seeking kids needed no help from mum so I left them to it, helping only to drag the donuts up the hill (which takes about two minutes to climb) as they are quite cumbersome for very small children. At the top, the staff led one donut at a time to the top of four lanes and on their signal the girls raced down the slope, spinning as they went. “Again, again!” they shouted at the bottom.
After several rides on the donuts, we headed to the sledging slope where lightweight sledges again can hold one or two people. The girls rode together and, I have to say, steered expertly down the hill as they giggled and shouted with pure excitement.
My older daughter also tried the covered Ice Slide, which reminded me of a toboggan run. She headed up the hill with her bodyboard-style sledge and we saw her whizz past us as we waited at the bottom of the slide, taking the twists and turns in her stride.
Après ski on the M60
Following the hour-long Snow Park session, there are plenty of facilities on site to keep you fed and watered. With wood-panelled walls, exposed stonework and low lighting, the slick design of the après ski area really makes you feel like you’re in the middle of the Alps.
We warmed up with a hot chocolate with whipped cream and marshmallows from the sweets and drinks stand downstairs, and you can also choose from Nandos, Wetherspoons, Bodo & Layke, the Sports Bar and Paul’s Ice Cream. With so many great spaces to eat and drink, this is an ideal venue for children’s parties and the Chill Factore can arrange everything for you with parties from 10 children available. All ages are catered for and ski and snowboard parties can be booked as well as Snow Park and Mini Moose Land bashes.
In addition, if the skiing bug has bitten you there are ski shops aplenty – from Crystal’s ski and activity holiday bookings shop to the Snow + Rock clothing and equipment store. There’s also a cycling shop and fitness superstore, so the athletic lifestyle is certainly catered for well here. And with the Trafford Centre just around the corner, your retail needs can be well and truly catered for!
The coolest holiday club in town
School Holiday Snow Camps mean children from 6 can ski (or age 8 for snowboarding) their way through the summer. Running from 10am-6pm, lunch is included and there is a mix of lessons and Snow Park free time. There’s also a climbing wall to keep children busy! The camps are available from £59 and are a great alternative to childcare.
Another fantastic offer means that all lessons are half price (£87.50) in the school holidays so now is the perfect time to learn how to ski or snowboard. Come rain or shine this summer, head to the Chill Factore for some unforgettable fun on the slopes – I can guarantee you'll enjoy the Manchester mountainside experience!
Mini Moose Land sessions are £3.50 each and parents go free. Snow Park passes are priced from £12.50 – see chillfactore.com