Skiing in Ireland
Journalist Deirdre Mullins takes a trip to the Ski Club of Ireland in Kilternan to get some practice before she hits the real slopes.
Ski holidays are expensive, so why not get the most out of yours by getting lessons before you leave home?
Ski Club of Ireland, Kilternan
The last few weeks of snow and sub zero temperatures has meant that most people's ski gear is getting a proper airing before they hit the European slopes. Trudging around in the white snow, it's easy to fantasise about Ireland being a ski destination.
When I visited the Ski Club of Ireland in Kilternan during the last cold snap, the fantasy seemed possible. The slopes and surrounding Dublin/Wicklow hills were covered with inches of white powder and music was pumping, giving it a party holiday atmosphere. One could have easily mistaken the Ski Club for a European ski resort.
The Ski Club has four different slopes: the main one is a decent size at 180m; the intermediate slope is 150m long and there are two 50m long nursery slopes for beginners. Under 'normal' Irish weather conditions the slopes won't be covered with snow but a material called Dendix, which is a bristle surface lubricated with a misting spray.
The club has been in operation since 1963 and was set up by a committee of people who were interested in skiing and wanted to introduce the sport to Ireland. I found it surprising to learn that all the people who work in the centre are volunteers and the clubs income is used for the upkeep of the centre. Perhaps that explains the friendly, family-like atmosphere.
Critics of artificial slopes complain that the skiing is slower than on real snow. Rosemary Mayrhuber, one of the trustees of the club agrees that it is slower but says that that allows one to concentrate on improving technique. When I asked her if she thought that skiing on Dendix is more dangerous than on snow, she replied: "Dangerous is too strong a word. Like all sport there is an element of risk. Falling should be prevented, that is why tuition is so important". She went on to say that she has been skiing in Kilternan for over 25 years and has had some falls but no damage has been done.
During the season, ski classes run at 8pm from Monday to Friday for adults and at various times on Saturday and Sunday for adults and children. Each lesson is an hour and 15 minutes duration. There are also one-day intensive courses on Saturdays for all levels. Snowboard classes are on Tuesday and Thursday evenings at 8.30pm and on Sunday evenings at 6.30pm and are an hour and a half in duration. Classes have a maximum of 12 participants.
Practice sessions are also available for competent skiers who must have taken a minimum of four classes at the Ski Club or done a minimum of a week's skiing on snow.
Next stop for me is the Austrian Alps where I can check if my Irish ski lessons pay off on the real snow.