Magic carpet for skiers
When it gets cold outside and the sun shines down from a bright blue sky onto the mountains – which it does a lot here in the Valais – it’s time to get the skis and snowboards out of the cellar and head off to the slopes. Full of enthusiasm we set off on our skiing holidays or long weekend fully intending to spend every minute on the slopes.
But then you never know what the weather is really going to be like. Sometimes, those are the very days that the weather turns out to be quite miserable, making the slopes so windy, snowy, and foggy that nobody wants to go outside anymore. But from 22 December this year, you’ll still be able to ski in Saas-Fee: at the indoor skiing facility in the Hotel Metropol in the middle of the village. You can’t leave your tracks in fresh new snow there, but you can still perform those elegant curves.
“The indoor skiing facility is a great option, especially in bad weather,” says Fabian Hess, who runs the facility. Together with his business partner, he wants to give guests in Saas-Fee the opportunity to ski in every kind of weather. He is sure his facility makes the range of recreational activities on offer in the village even more attractive.
But wait! Don’t just think, “Right! I’ll grab my skis, get to the Metropol and off I go.” It’s not quite as easy as that, explains Fabian Hess as he shows me around. “You can’t ski here with normal skis.” You need shorter skis because of the restricted radius that is available to skiers on a ramp like this. The indoor skis are also especially prepared: “We have to break the edges otherwise the skis would ruin the carpet,” says Hess as he swishes elegantly down the ramp. The carpet works like a treadmill for skiers. The inclination is a bit steeper and can be varied between 9 and 22 percent. Hess can also change the speed of the carpet. The maximum speed is 24 km/h. Hess shows me how it’s done, but he holds on to the safety bar at the bottom as he does so. “I haven’t actually spent much time on this carpet yet and if I’m holding the remote control myself then it’s too risky otherwise.” If he did fall over, he might drop the remote control and then he wouldn’t be able to stop the carpet anymore. And we don’t even want to think about what would happen then. “There’s always an instructor there when the carpet is on who holds the remote and can stop the carpet if necessary.” There haven’t been any accidents so far.
For safety reasons, a maximum of eight people are allowed on the carpet at once. “But they have to be quite advanced skiers,” says Hess, adding that on average four people are on the carpet at the same time. “You can book for one hour and then you can go on the carpet six times for ten minutes.” As ten minutes on the carpet is actually quite hard work, food and drinks are also available in the facility, which used to be a disco. So you can take a break and have a refreshing drink while you watch the other skiers go down the ramp. And they can watch themselves too. There’s a big mirror at the bottom of the ramp, like in a dance studio. I want to find out why.
Hess explains: “When you are out on the slopes, you need to anticipate. You look ahead and adapt your speed and style of skiing to the slope. It’s not like that on the carpet. Here, you have to react. But that only works if you can see yourself and the movements you are making.”
There are also plans to collaborate with the ski school so that beginners can practise their first curves on the carpet. Hess is convinced that this has several advantages: “You can use the mirror to analyse your movements directly instead of making a video and watching it afterwards.” Complete beginners can hold onto the safety bar at the bottom of the ramp until they get used to their skis. I’m impressed when Hess tells me that an absolute beginner who has never skied before can ski down a blue slope after just ten lessons on the carpet.
The ramp could also be used for ski racing training. The carpet is especially suitable for junior skiers wanting to hone their skills, even though Saas-Fee has a summer ski area. Hess, a former International Ski Federation racer himself, says that the indoor facility can also be used for therapeutic purposes: “I know someone who had four knee operations and then used a carpet for his first attempts to get back on skis.” The patient was secured with a rope in case his knee gave way. But is worked and “when he went back on the slopes he knew he could really go for it and that his knee could take it.”
The ski carpet is only part of Hess’s vision. He wants to create a crossfit centre, with a slackline in the garden in summer.
The Mittschdri Skipoint is open from 22 December every day between 3 p.m. and 10 p.m. “But we’ll be open for longer when the weather is bad,” says Hess with a wink.
For further information or queries about group discounts / rental, contact the team online at www.swissindoorskiing.ch, or by telephone on +41 (0)27 958 58 58 or per e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Instagram at #mittschdri