It’s summer! At last you can sunbathe, swim and... ski. Why not? Budapest’s first indoor ski centre has just opened and can be used whatever the weather. Oh, and don’t be surprised if the ground starts moving under your feet while you’re standing still: it’s just the ski simulator! We paid a visit to the newly opened Skienergie centre by the City Park.
Who on earth goes to urban ski slopes in summer when there won’t be any winter sports for months? Those who think ahead, that's who. It’s worth learning the ropes well before the season starts, while advanced skiers can brush up on a few moves.
Anyone who missed out on ski camps when they were at school might feel left out now that they’re adults. It’s a bit like swimming: either you learn as a kid or you find yourself having to struggle more to catch up. Skiing, moreover, is not a cheap pastime – it requires serious equipment and trips abroad to find snowy heights.
Out in the open, standing on top of a mountain, it’s quite a challenge to learn how to ski: you might find that while others in your group are happily gliding down more difficult terrain by the third day, you’re still stuck with the elementary students on the junior slopes. So it’s worth thinking ahead and getting the routine down pat before plunging into the deep end.
As in the case of swimming, there’s adult skiing tuition in Budapest, with plastic slopes also open in summer. This spring, the Skienergie centre joined their number but its key differences start with the fact that it is indoors. In addition, its slope tilted at 30 degree acts like a treadmill, the track covered with a silicone plastic mat moving continuously below you. It’s as if the motorway is pushing out from under you.
Chief operator at Skienergie, Balázs Kocsik, explains that it has the same logic as swimming pools with a counter current, which means that you stand in one place with your skis and the ground literally sets off from under your feet.
On the opposite mirror wall, you can follow developments as you chat and stumble – this is actually recommended, because if you just stare at your feet or the moving path, you can easily get dizzy. By the end of the hour, you feel much calmer, your brain having had time to become somewhat accustomed to the unusual terrain.
Skienergie provides the necessary equipment, skis and ski boots – no more serious clothing is required and there’s no need to overdo it. The centre can be found alongside the City Park on Dózsa György út, in the hall of the old post office distribution centre. It can get pretty hot, not only because it’s summer, but also due to the glass roof. Thus, in a rather bizarre way, in quasi-tropical conditions, you can ski with minimal clothing on – not something you do every day.
Why is it good to ski with a ski simulator? According to ski instructors Miklós Ozsváth and Evelin Szommer who instructed us on our visit, the correct posture and muscle work can be mastered more easily and quickly, as you do not have to climb back to the starting point after each downhill jaunt.
“It’s like practising corners in slow motion: the early learner can control their speed and experience the correct shift of the centre of gravity and load bearing.”
Here, the cordon also helps you stay on your feet, you can even slam into it because it's flexible. For snow initiates, it’s easy to start off and fall flat on your face, while bumps and other students also hinder your movement. The speed can be easily changed with the help of a remote control – something almost begging for a comedy moment if someone accidentally steps on it.
The biggest advantage of the track is that it is endless. According to Miklós, you can practise as many turns in one hour as you would in five days on the real slopes. The first time is all about understanding proper posture and learning how to move left and right along the bar by placing your weight at the right point. Remember, the track is constantly moving under your feet, so in theory you are moving forward, even though you are standing still.
The elastic cordon provides security, but if you dare to let go at some point, a stretched abdomen is enough to keep your body stable. This is because the muscles need to be stretched all the way – abdominal, back and buttocks, calves, tilting your buttocks under your hips, constantly kneeling, making sure that your skis aren’t further apart than the width of your hips. For complete beginners, this is why the first hour of training is a real surprise.
Elsewhere in Europe, there are simulators that work on a similar principle, with different technical parameters or sizes. Skienergie is a Hungarian development, Budapest is their second opening: based on a concept devised by renowned sport orthopaedic specialist István Szabó, the first was established in Székesfehérvár, with Walkenergie machines, widespread in several gyms, also connected.
Tuition for groups of four starts in June – for more information, see the Skienergie Facebook page.
District VII. Dózsa György út 50
Tel: +36 30 329 7100