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Dry slope surface review

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
There are a few discussions on here about different dry slope surfaces. I can't seem to find anything comprehensive though.

These are the difference surfaces I have found:
Dendix
Geoplast (Geoski)
Neveplast
Permasnow
Proslope (does this exist anymore?)
Snowflex

Is there a consensus on which is best for:
Slalom
Park
Recreational skiing/boarding
Nursery/Learning

Thanks
Jesse
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
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I think to some extent people prefer the surface they are used to, which will be whatever is at their local slope.
I've skied on Permasnow, Snowflex and Dendix. The first 2 were quite similar, and felt to me a bit like skiing on a hard, icy piste - lots of skid, not a lot of grip. I prefer Dendix, the grip is more progressive because the bristles are longer, so it's more like skiing on softer snow.
I'm just a skier, I don't race or do park type stuff.
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Our local dry slope has a Dendix main slope and Snowflex learning slope and fun park. The snowflex surface is much more forgiving if you fall over and so seems to work well for beginners learning the basics and also for the fun park, but you can't get a proper grip and so need to do skiddy turns. But for recreational skiing and boarding Dendix, in my opinion, is far superior as the bristle allow your edges to grip much more like they would on snow and so much more effective for practicing on. I've not used the other surface types mentioned but I would think that the only surface suitable for racing is probably dendix.
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Hillend has three types: Dendix, Neveplast and Snowflex.

Dendix is used on the main slope, tow slope and old nursery slopes. Neveplast is on the new nursery slopes. Snowflex on the 'jump' slope. I would say that it is representative of what is best for each type of slope.
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I only know Dendix and Snowflex, although sometimes you get other surfaces which I don't know the name of.

Personally I prefer Dendix, although I learned on that for my 1st 10 years so maybe that is why. You can carve both surfaces, but I think Dendix has more depth/give so it's easier (when well maintained) to get a harder edge in. I've only had one edge to worry about since the late 1980s, so edge grip is important to me.
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Thank you for the responses. I hope to visit the U.K. this winter (I live in the U.S.) and try out some different slopes. Has anyone been to Snowtrax (looks like it's in Dorset). Supposedly they use Proslope.
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telemajik wrote:
Thank you for the responses. I hope to visit the U.K. this winter (I live in the U.S.) and try out some different slopes. Has anyone been to Snowtrax (looks like it's in Dorset). Supposedly they use Proslope.


Yep I personally think it is the nicest dry ski slope surface I have skied on and I like the centre, I think the lift is the worst I have ever used mind! Wouldn't say it is worth a trip to the UK from the states though Happy
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NickyJ wrote:
...Wouldn't say it is worth a trip to the UK from the states though Happy

Perhaps the question is more... is it worth bringing gear over to ride our plastic.

We also have indoor snow, which would be off topic though.

I believe there is at least one Dendix slope in the USA - attached to a college from what I remember.
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@philwig, Liberty University in Lynchburg Va has a dry ski slope? No idea if its Dendix or Snowflex though.

I've skied on Proslope at Snowtrax, and Dendix at Southampton. I much prefer the Proslope, but as NickyJ says, the lift is a horrible
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jonkgray78, Liberty Mountain is Snowflex, see here.
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@philwig, we also have real outdoor ski areas too!
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Yeah, purpose of trip would be more for research... interested in the feasibility of dry slopes in the U.S. Figure I'd better experience myself it before I get too far.
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telemajik wrote:
Yeah, purpose of trip would be more for research... interested in the feasibility of dry slopes in the U.S. Figure I'd better experience myself it before I get too far.


Get yourself up to Edinburgh to see what is possible. Hillend is the largest artificial ski slope in Europe. The top section is as steep as some reds and blacks, albeit for only a short time. Very Happy Very Happy
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what...snow wrote:
@philwig, we also have real outdoor ski areas too!

I'm not sure why you're telling me something quite so obvious and quite so irrelevant.
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Hillend looks quite impressive. I'll make sure to include it if for no other reason than the sheer scale. Just curious, how far are people typically willing to drive to get to a dry slope?
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telemajik wrote:
Hillend looks quite impressive. I'll make sure to include it if for no other reason than the sheer scale.


If you do, let me know and I'll put you in touch with the right people at Hillend who can talk you through the economics of running the slope. Hillend have diversified in recent years with the addition of 'tubing' runs. These have proven to be a great commercial success.

telemajik wrote:
Just curious, how far are people typically willing to drive to get to a dry slope?


It depends. If there are races then people travel from all over Scotland and some parts of England. On a 'normal' basis I know people who travel 30-40 miles on a regular basis. We are 28 miles from Hillend and do the round trip at least twice a week. The reasons more people don't travel is there are a number of dry slopes in the central belt (area between Glasgow and Edinburgh). IIRC there are at least 4 dry slopes and one indoor Snowdome in addition to Hillend. While none are anywhere near as big as Hillend they offer enough to make regular travel to Hillend unnecessary.

The old adage about "size not being everything" is especially true in the case of the Glasgow Ski Centre - http://www.ski-glasgow.org/Racing. Its resident club, Glasgow Ski Racing, frequently produces excellent racers who go on to complete at national squad level.
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The 4 artificial slopes I know about are Bellahouston in Glasgow, Bearsden, Falkirk Polmonthill and Tillicoultry FirPark. All dendix I think except Bearsden which I think was upgraded to snowflex recently ?

All worthy of some support - use them or lose them !
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Quote:

Hillend have diversified in recent years with the addition of 'tubing' runs. These have proven to be a great commercial success.


Shouldn't be underestimated. My local dry slope I think made more money from tubing, sledging, birthday parties etc. than it did from skiing and boarding.

Norwich is another well set up and maintained slope with a friendly club that would be worth a visit.
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@Gaza, thanks I would really appreciate the chance to talk to some folks at Hillend about the economics.

@kieranm, thanks for the recommendation about Norwich, I will look into that one also.
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telemajik, Maybe visit some indoor snow slopes too, just to get a feel for how busy they are compared to dry slopes.
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Good suggestion rjs. Do they tend to be more busy or less busy?
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I do want to plan my trip when the slopes are actually dry (a opposed to dusted or covered with snow or frost). Are there months I should avoid?
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telemajik wrote:
Thank you for the responses. I hope to visit the U.K. this winter (I live in the U.S.) and try out some different slopes. Has anyone been to Snowtrax (looks like it's in Dorset). Supposedly they use Proslope.


Sorry for the downer (I guess you want honest opinions from all sides), but...

Honestly, dry slopes absolutely SUCK compared to snow - it's really nothing like skiing on the real thing. I could see the point of a dry slope summer training facility for freestyle, but in my honest opinion they're just awful for the actual skiing part. I spent 3 years studying in Aberdeen, which has a dry slope, and used it once in my first week there - that was enough. I was lucky enough to still spend 8+ weeks skiing in the Alps in those years, but there are just so many other sports and activities that are way more fun than skiing on plastic (in Scotland, whitewater kayaking for me).


Last edited by After all it is free Go on u know u want to! on Sun 25-10-15 18:46; edited 1 time in total
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One material not mentioned yet.

AstroGelande.
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telemajik wrote:
Good suggestion rjs. Do they tend to be more busy or less busy?


Fridges will start getting busy now best chance for a quite session is daytime but best check either with the slope or those who ski regularly there. Dryslopes do not get as busy generally.
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telemajik wrote:
I do want to plan my trip when the slopes are actually dry (a opposed to dusted or covered with snow or frost). Are there months I should avoid?


Snow is unlikely to be an issue, and frost only early in the morning, its rain that will mote likely trouble you and can change the feel of the slope.
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Hillend can have snow on it at any time during a Scottish winter (that could be from November to April). I can see the slope from where I live about a mile away. A few years ago it was covered in snow for over a month and skiing possible all over the hillside. However the ski centre don't like their skis being used 'off the mat'.
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@telemajik, I train and race on dryslopes and for a while was an instructor too. For racing the only surface worth considering is Dendix, and Proslope as a runner up. For beginner instruction I'd say Proslope is a clear winner. I understand the park-rats like Snowflex but as I can't stand any of that stuff I can't really comment - other than to say it's marginally better to ski on than Permasnow but that's no recommendation as it's putting the bar about as low as it can get.

Both Dendix and Proslope can hold an edge, with decent technique. Its biggest drawback is that it can be quite painful to fall on, and broken fingers are common (dryslope skiers refer to "Dendix thumb" whereas the rest of the world calls it a Bennett's fracture - jamming the end of your thumb in the body of the diamond). From a skiing point of view, it is more hard work than snow, but you can do quite a lot of what you can do on snow, and our line to students was always "Yes it's sort of tough to get going, but once you crack it on this it'll feel an absolute doddle when you get onto the real stuff - as this forces you to get the technique right whereas you can fake it on snow". The one thing it's really bad at is allowing you to sideslip - the bristle diamonds grab and release intermittently at the edges of the skis so it's horrible trying to slip smoothly, but it can be done if the slope is steep and wet enough. Despite that, Dendix doesn't have the level of grip that snow offers, so when you get to higher level carving you can't get the kinds of angles you can get on snow (unless you do what nearly all the highlevel racers do and use a tool with ceramic rods on to bend the edge into a hook-like burr...it makes a huge difference to the grip, but you're screwed if you then ever want to sideslip)

Proslope has a similar diamond-based pattern to Dendix, but has shorter bristles filling in the diamonds so gets extra grip when the ski is pushed in harder...or that's the principle. As the diamonds are filled in, you get many fewer broken thumbs (and consequently much lower insurance premiums for the slope operators). When I tried it out first I found it great for snowploughs on gentle slopes, and sideslipping was almost like on real snow. So it's great for base-level instruction. From an instruction point of view, I think its usefulness runs out when the skier starts trying to carve turns, and is actually detimental. The bristles are softer than those on Dendix so you need to get a higher angle before the ski grips enough to rail the turn without washing out sideways. This encourages a huge amount of lateral movement in the knees to try and get that grip at slow speeds...and you can really see it in the young kids who train on it. (This is also a criticism snow-skiers make of Dendix trainees, but it's nowhere near as extreme). Where it really loses out to Dendix from a performance point of view is on steeper slopes, and when trying to carve substantially across the slope - the bristles aren't really stiff enough to give good grip when it gets the kind of lateral forces that an adult or large teen can give it. From a race coach's perspective it also has a massive disadvantage that you are very restricted in where you can locate poles. Dendix has open diamonds so you can lift up the matting and slip a (normally) wooden foot through the hole which holds the pole in place. As the diamonds in Proslope are filled in, you can't do this, and instead have threaded inserts into which the poles screw. These inserts are not really cheap enough to put in each diamond (and having that many would affect the grip for skiing anyway), so have to be only positioned in selected diamonds. So you don't have the flexibility of making up and adjusting a course at will...you can only set the courses the fit the locations of the inserts.

Dendix is best in gentle drizzle - to the extent that most Dendix slopes also have a misting system where the slope is watered with fine spray nozzles. In the summer, if the misting isn't on (economics or just plant failure) it can get really quite sticky, and any skiing at speed burns out the bases fairly quickly (ah..."love the smell of burning Pitex in the morning" Wink ) - I quickly trashed a pair of skis practicing one-footed skiing one summer. My one experience of Permasnow (and later feedback from clubs training on it) was that this was way worse there and the bases stated burning out after about 2 runs (you needed to stop for 5 mins after each run for the edges to cool and stop smelling of burning Pitex). Skiing on frozen Dendix is lovely - provided there weren't any standing pools of water on the slope when the freeze came on!!!

There are also comments above about snowdomes. If you do a search on this site you'll see lots of arguments for and against. Ignoring economic arguments, of course the skiing is better at a snowdome - it's snow! But it is hugely more expensive, so you can get about 3x as much skiing on a dryslope as you can on in a dome for the same price. If you're doing it once or twice a season then it's no big deal, but going once a week or more gets hugely expensive (and in many places in the UK you'll be much closer to a dryslope than a dome). I do like skiing outdoors though, and that generally makes the dryslope experience more enjoyable for me (unless I specifically want to practice something a dryslope really doesn't support). A major downside of indoor snow is that domes need a much higher load factor to make money and refrigeration/snowmaking costs are high, so the economics generally means the snow is not maintained at a quality that really allows useful practice.

So from my perspective the preference order is Dendix > Proslope >> Snowflex > Permasnow, with indoor snow probably somewhere alongside Proslope. As mentioned by a few above though, by far the greatest income at our local slope is from tubing/doughnut parties, and all surfaces are pretty much fine for that.
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Thanks GrahamN for the detailed response, this is very helpful and informative. It's kind of surprising to me that Dendix has been around for so long, seems to be the surface of choice for racing, and the Dendix thumb problem has never been solved.
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GrahamN wrote:
Both Dendix and Proslope can hold an edge, with decent technique.


Agreed. This is a reasonable example. Not brilliant focus but it shows the amount of edge an 8 year old can get without falling over. Very Happy Very Happy



GrahamN wrote:
Dendix is best in gentle drizzle - to the extent that most Dendix slopes also have a misting system where the slope is watered with fine spray nozzles.


This illustrates the misting system in action:-

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Gaza wrote:
GrahamN wrote:
Both Dendix and Proslope can hold an edge, with decent technique.


Agreed. This is a reasonable example. Not brilliant focus but it shows the amount of edge an 8 year old can get without falling over. Very Happy Very Happy



GrahamN wrote:
Dendix is best in gentle drizzle - to the extent that most Dendix slopes also have a misting system where the slope is watered with fine spray nozzles.


This illustrates the misting system in action:-



and the first picture also illustrates the problem with not having a decent underlay, grass and weeds. One problem with inexperienced peeps putting in courses on dendix is that they hammer the bases in and rip through the underlay allowing the vegetation to take a grip.

I believe theres a sizeable slope in Moscow, and I know the Bansko in Bulgaria has a small dendix area for the summer months
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iskar wrote:
and the first picture also illustrates the problem with not having a decent underlay, grass and weeds. One problem with inexperienced peeps putting in courses on dendix is that they hammer the bases in and rip through the underlay allowing the vegetation to take a grip.


That matting was brand new in the summer but the grass started coming through shortly after. They do treat it with Round-Up occasionally to keep it at bay. The poles at Hillend have an 'L' shaped foot so they go under the mat rather than through the underlay.
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@Gaza, I think @iskar's point was that a careless coursesetter could be a bit too aggressive with hooking the foot in and so tear the underlay at any loose flaps. I think that is a lesser problem though than punching holes through the underlay with normal ski-poles. Hence (well it's one reason for) the general requirement for racers to have rubber/plastic bungs protecting the ends of poles, and slope ski-poles normally to have sawn-off ends, but you still have the problem of pointy bits when customers bring their own poles.
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Even if have really good underlay on Dendix you still eventually get problems with weeds. If you get moss in the diamonds, or fallen leaves, when they decompose the weed seeds germinate in the debris. It is really hard to get the debris out without peeling back large areas of mat and sweeping the underlay - hard work and then you have to rewire all the mat back in.
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@GrahamN,

Nice post with good information for anyone who wants to know the differences between the types of slope material.

Always used to tell people ( as an easy to understand general rule ) that Dendix is half the speed of snow but snow is twice as easy to turn on but you have to get used to the increased speed first.

One thing I really do hate though is the plastic sheets used by CFe on the top section of the drags. It scrapes the bases, because they never keep enough snow cover on it.
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Are there any Neveplast slopes with a 3 hour drive of London?
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@SkEO, no - I think Hillend is the only Neveplast slope in the UK.
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Not sure Hill End would make a good economic model (but maybe a good study case) as its owned and subsidised by the local council. The annual subsidy was £500k per year in the past, not sure what it has been recently.
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JimboS wrote:
Not sure Hill End would make a good economic model (but maybe a good study case) as its owned and subsidised by the local council. The annual subsidy was £500k per year in the past, not sure what it has been recently.



Hillend is turning a good profit these days - mainly due to up turn from kids tubing parties.
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