Not everyone is lucky enough to live near snowy mountains. So the hardcore skiers and snowboarders like to find alternative ways to practice their favorite winter sports closer to home.
Some people manage to visit indoor snow centers, while others head to the dry slopes. So, in this article, we will delve into the details of dry slope skiing and give you some tips on how to enjoy them.
What Is A Dry Slope?
A dry ski slope is located on a hill and is covered by an artificial material. The material is a type of plastic acting as an alternative to snow, allowing your skis or snowboard to slide freely.
Dry ski slopes often have some kind of drag lift running up the side of them. This could be anything from a simple rope-tow to a button or t-bar.
You can usually rent ski and snowboard equipment at dry slopes, and they even have qualified instructors. In addition to this, there is usually a cafe, bar, or restaurant overlooking the slope, ideal for a quick lunch stop.
What Are Dry Slopes Made From?
When you take a close look at the artificial material of a dry slope, you will notice that it is made up of plastic bristles point upwards.
Several companies make dry slope material. Most of them use variations on a similar theme. These companies include Mr. Snow, Playgrass, Innova-Ski, JF Ski Mat, Pole-Snow, Skitech, and Skitrax.
However, the two most popular dry ski slope materials come from Dendix and Neveplast.
The most popular type of dry slope material is called Dendix. This plastic matting consists of an arrangement of hollow hexagonal shapes. The holes are to reduce friction on your skis or snowboard.
Dendix slopes are kept wet using a sprinkler system, which reduces the friction further, allowing you to slide faster. This allows you to go faster, making the experience a little closer to snow skiing.
Neveplast is another bristly plastic material but with small circular holes. The idea behind this design is that the holes cool the heat generated by the friction with your skis.
The advantage of Neveplast’s design is that it doesn’t need to be constantly sprayed with water. This is better for the dry slope energy costs, and skiers are not always skiing through a mist of water.
You can expect to see Neveplast used in many applications, such as nordic skiing, snow tubing, alpine skiing/snowboarding, etc.
Neveplast is the choice of material for the longest dry slope in the world, Veduchi. Veduchi is located in Russia and measures 1,13km long.
What Is It Like To Ski On A Dry Slope?
A dry slope is an excellent start if you are a complete beginner skier or snowboarder. The fact that you have little or no experience of the snow means that you don’t have to adapt your style for a dry slope. However, you will have to adjust your technique somewhat when you transition onto the snow.
Visiting a dry ski slope in the early days will help you master the basics of skiing. You will learn how the skis slide, how to stop and make snowplow turns, just like you would on snow.
The main issue for a beginner on a dry slope is that they can be pretty steep. In fact, even the dry beginner slopes are usually much steeper than the average beginner slope in a ski resort. Therefore, your first couple of visits may be pretty intimidating.
But you shouldn’t let this put you off learning how to ski or snowboard. A dry slope can give you more than enough experience to set you on your way to being a great skier.
If you are a more advanced skier, you will notice the difference between a dry slope and real snow. The first difference you will experience is when you carve or use the edges of your skis.
You won’t be able to use a progressive edge angle, as the ski will either slide sideways or firmly grip the material. Therefore, you will need to adapt to a more rounded turn shape.
With a bit of practice, you will soon discover how to make rounded and gripping turns on a dry slope. This will help your technique on snow too. Dry slopes are often used by pro skiers for slalom training during the summer.
Advantages And Disadvantages Of Dry Slope Skiing
Dry Slopes Are Accessible
Dry slopes are often more accessible than mountains, and not everyone has access to real snow. Therefore, heading to a dry slope allows you to enjoy yourself without having to travel abroad.
Learn The Basics
You will be able to make more of your ski trip if you have some basic skills under your belt before you go. After a few lessons and sessions on a dry slope, you will be able to kick start your trip to the snow at a higher level.
This is much better than starting from scratch when you get to the ski resort with no idea of what to do. In addition to this, you will save money, as lessons and equipment hire in a ski resort is more expensive than at your local dry slope.
A dry ski slope is ideal f you want to stay in practice or develop your skills further. Throughout the summer, you can prepare for your winter vacation or simply continue to enjoy your skiing or snowboarding.
You will find that the techniques used on a dry slope are pretty similar to the techniques for snow skiing. This is more the case for beginners, but the skills learned at the dry slope are transferable to the mountain.
Sometimes ski resorts can be packed full of people. While this creates an amazing après scene, it can be intimidating when learning how to ski or snowboard.
Dry slopes tend to be much quieter, giving you lots of space to practice without worrying about what other people are doing around you. In addition to this, you can get lots of runs in, as the lift lines are short.
Dry Slope Skiing Requires Less Equipment
When you ski or snowboard on a dry slope, you will be in warmer temperatures than if you were on a mountain. Therefore, you don’t need to wrap up as warm. Wearing fewer layers doesn’t restrict your movement, making your practice easier.
Not needing expensive ski clothing is excellent for beginners, as you can try the sport out before buying all the stuff. If you like it, you can start to build up your ski clothing and equipment over time.
Dry Slopes Are Not As Forgiving As Snow
Even hardpacked snow gives a little when you fall on it, but dry slope material can hurt when you fall on it. Also, those bristles are not soft and can cause friction burns on exposed skin.
In addition to this, the holes in the material have a nasty habit of breaking thumbs if they get caught.
A Different Feeling To Snow
If you go from a dry slope to real snow, you will find that it won’t take long for you to adapt, as the technique is similar.
However, if you are an advanced skier or snowboarder more used to snow, you will find the transition more challenging. It will take some time to adjust to the variables and how your skis or snowboard behave on the material.
You Don’t Get The Authentic Mountain Experience
Ski resorts are fun and bustling places. The surrounding mountain views are breathtaking, and there is nothing like the atmosphere in a ski resort.
Learning to ski in a ski resort gives you the whole experience, from the cold air, lively après ski, local food, and meeting other people.
Advanced Skiers And Snowboarders Can Get Bored
Dry ski slopes tend to be relatively short, which is quite limiting for advanced skiers and snowboarders. However, there are longer dry slopes now, with varied terrain to keep you entertained.
Some dry slopes have specific days or nights when they get out some ramps, boxes, and rails for freestyle riding. Others have pump tracks, mogul runs, and small terrain parks, enhancing their appeal.
Tips For Dry Slope Skiing
Consider Your Clothing
Depending on the time of year and where you live, you probably won’t need too many clothing layers for hitting the dry slope. However, more layers mean more padding to protect you in a fall.
There is nothing wrong with wearing too many layers. You can always take a layer off if you get too hot.
If you are skiing or snowboarding on a Dendix slope, you will probably want to wear waterproof clothing due to the sprinkler system. Don’t wear your proper expensive ski gear, as it will get ruined if you fall. Instead, wear something cheap and waterproof.
You will need to wear some gloves. This is not because your hands get cold, but to save them from the material in a fall. Many people wear tough gardening gloves or something similar.
Some snowboarders tape their glove’s fingers and thumbs together to stop them from getting caught in the holes.
You should always wear a helmet when skiing or snowboarding, no matter where you are. A helmet will save you from injury during minor crashes and impacts.
Ski and snowboard helmets are much better than they used to be. They are comfortable and made from lightweight materials, allowing you to wear them without any issues throughout your session.
If you are learning how to snowboard on a dry ski slope, you may want to buy some impact shorts. These fit under your pants and have built-in shock-absorbing pads. Impact shorts are great for protecting your coccyx when you fall on it. They also make sitting on the ground while you are listening to an instructor more comfortable.
What Equipment To Use?
If you are a beginner, don’t buy your ski or snowboard equipment just yet. Instead, rent it at the dry slope, as they will have everything you need, even helmets.
Advanced skiers and snowboarders will notice that the edges on the hire equipment will be pretty blunt. This is because there is a lot of friction between the dry slope material and the edges.
If you have your own skis or snowboard equipment, you can take it to the dry slope. But you need to make sure you apply some Polar-X or CH4 wax to protect your bases and to ensure you can slide well.
But the dry slope material will wear out the base of your skis or snowboard. In addition to this, your edges will become blunt quickly, so remember to get them serviced before heading to the ski resort. Therefore, if you have an old pair of skis or an old snowboard, use them for the dry slope rather than your new equipment.
As we said earlier, advanced skiers may become bored with visiting a dry slope. But to keep it interesting, you should set goals for your skiing or snowboarding.
For example, practice perfect carving arcs, short swings, and skiing on one ski. You can also mix it up with fun little contests with your friends, such as moguls on one ski. These are all great for improving your technique when you get back on snow.
Snowboarders can work on various tricks, such as nose and tail presses and spins. But dry slopes are the ideal place to practice riding switch, which is often overlooked on snow.
Many dry slopes have ski and snowboard clubs. These offer structured training, competitions, and social gatherings to make your visits to the dry slope even more fun and productive.
Even with more indoor snow centers opening, dry slopes are here to stay. Dry slope material technology is still improving and will continue to provide a way for people to get their skiing and snowboarding fix.
Dry slopes have given champions their first taste of snow sports, and they still go back to them for training. This is a testament to how important they are to snow sports.