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Warmwell artificial ski slope in Dorset, U.K.
(Snowflex)


Artificial ski slopes or dry ski slopes are ski slopes that mimic the attributes of snow using materials that are stable at room temperature, to enable people to ski on them. The term "dry ski slopes" is also used but can be misleading as many slopes are lubricated using a mist or jet system to increase speed and prevent damage to equipment from friction heat build-up. As a general rule, they are found predominantly in the U.K. and the Netherlands as other European countries tend to have ready access to real snow fields, as does North America - but only in the winter.

Materials

Early materials

A variety of materials can be found on dry ski slopes.

Early efforts to mimic snow involved laying extruded plastic tiles with upward spikes in an attempt to provide grip. These were unpopular as they provided little grip and turning capability and the experience was similar to skiing across ice.

Brush materials

Dendix mesh material
The next stage in dry ski slope development came with the brush industry. The most common material is dendix, a by-product of brush manufacturing which is similar to a short haired brush with the bristles sticking upwards. Dendix is manufactured in Chepstowmarker, however it can be found on slopes throughout the world. It is arranged in a hexagonal pattern of approximately 1 inch (25 mm) strips of bristles in a 4 inch (100 mm) hexagon. Although it was a significant advancement from previous surfaces, concern over damage to slope users (it provides little or no impact protection to a slope user when falling) and ski or snowboard damage due to friction meant litigation for slopes using it was a constant threat. Nowadays water is often sprayed onto the surface of the dendix to lubricate it and increase speed however higher insurance premiums cause many slope operators to look for safer alternatives.

Despite more recent materials (see below) Dendix remains the only artificial ski surface on which it is practical to run ski slalom races.

Recent materials

The most recent development has seen a crop of materials providing both impact protection and slope lubrication as well as the ability to perform turns, erect jumps, rails and quarterpipes and provide a ride that is closer to the feel of real snow. The most common of these is Snowflex, manufactured near Huddersfieldmarker, West Yorkshire in Englandmarker by Briton Engineering Developments Limited. Others include Perma-snow by John Nike Leisure/ Techmat 2000, also in the UKmarker and Astroride by NorCal Extreme Sports in the United Statesmarker. Snowflex and Perma-snow are both white in colour, although the former has been produced in a darker green - see Kendal Ski Club in Cumbriamarker, England - to comply with planning requirements. It should be noted that Perma-snow is not lubricated as it was designed to reduce friction through use of a looped pile, although the effectiveness of this is disputed. There is no indication from NorCal Extreme Sports that AstroRide has not yet been commercially tested to any great extent.Among these there is also Neveplast, a material which is becoming very utilized. This new type mat, shaped by conical stems arranged in concentric way, is suitable for downhill, snowboarding and cross country skiing. Neveplast allows an easy deflection of the sport equipment with the low friction between the surface and the ski, and thanks to its slipperiness no water has to be use on it. The Neveplast cooling hole has the same diameter as the F.I.S. slalom pole standards used for training and competition in both slalom and giant slalom. Neveplast is a flexible surface suitable for installations of half-pipes, quarters and kickers of any shape and size. New product of Snowsun Srl are flexible and with more safety, in rolls.

Ski and Board Preparation

Artificial slope users often improve the performance of their equipment by using the hardest grade of Ski wax. Although, the wax wears off quickly and must be renewed after one or two sessions. At least one company makes a hard wax that is intended for use on dry slopes. Some users apply aerosol furniture polish to the bases of their skis or boards as the silicon oil it contains is reputed to reduce friction. Other substances, such as Dishwashing liquid, are sometimes used

Outdoor Artificial Ski Slopes Locations

United Kingdom



  • Sandown Park, Eshermarker, Surreymarker
  • Wycombe Summitmarker, in High Wycombemarker, Buckinghamshire was the one of the largest dry ski slope in the country until it burnt down in 2005. There are plans for it to be rebuilt as a new real snow slope in addition to a new dry ski slope and ice rink.


Republic of Ireland

  • Kilternan Ski School, Kilternan, Dublin


Outside the UK



Under Construction



See also

Dry slope skier




References

  1. Dendix installing ski slope in Moscow
  2. Study on upper limb in injuries in dry ski slope skiing
  3. Minutes of South Lakeland council meeting
  4. Discussion on synthetic surfaces
  5. NorCal Extreme Sports news page


External links




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