In this dark, wet November it was great to get away for a couple of days this week. And even better to spend it doing some exciting activities.
With two school in-service (teacher training) days coming up it seemed a great opportunity for some much-needed father/son bonding time. As it happens, I had a public holiday on one of the days anyway, the annual Christmas shopping holiday introduced by the Scottish Government a few years ago to celebrate Black Friday (or was it St Andrew ? … I forget …). The favourite daughter needed to stay at home to study for exams starting on Monday, so it turned out to be a boys’ trip away.
We decided to make a return visit to Manchester having last visited Airkix to go indoor skydiving in July on our way to the south of England for our summer holiday (there’s nowhere like this in Scotland). And right next door to Airkix is an indoor ski slope, the Chill Factor. Sorted.
Being a Thursday afternoon the ski slope wasn’t busy and we had a really enjoyable couple of hours. It’s so much better skiing on real snow (compared with the dry ski slopes we’ve been on recently) and has put us in the mood for our week’s skiing in France in February – and hopefully a day or two in Scotland before that.
Imagine a vertical wind tunnel approximately 6 metres wide and perhaps 15 metres tall. It creates winds of around 100 mph – giant fans control the wind speed – which enables you to ‘fly’ in mid-air. The sound and sensation of the wind is incredible, but at least you’re kitted out with a jumpsuit, ear plugs and a helmet to give some protection.
These are the instructors
showing off showing how it’s really done. They’ve clearly spent many hours perfecting the techniques since they fly around up and down and doing loop-the-loops effortlessly.
You can stand on a net if you’re vertical but once horizontal, the wind keeps you in mid-air, flying around seemingly weightless.
We had two ‘flights’, each just one minute long – apparently 15 seconds longer than the typical outdoor skydive. We found that short bursts were enough, but this is clearly a sport where technique is everything.
We were given initial instruction of perhaps 20 minutes before getting kitted out in our protective clothing. The trick to effective flying is to push your hips forwards so that when facing downwards, your back is arched slightly: head forwards, chin up and legs slightly bent upwards. (After a while my back started to ache from this unnatural position).
We watched the previous group through the glass walls of the wind tunnel before it was our turn to get into the pressurised chamber. During the one minute ‘flights’ beginners are lightly held or steered by the instructor most of the time. Only once you’ve got the hang of the correct flying technique – which takes at least 30 seconds – will the instructors let go of you so that you can fly unaided. It’s a weird sensation, particularly since I wasn’t conscious of doing anything to control the direction and height I was flying – but clearly, very slight changes in hand and leg movements make all the difference.
All in all, a great couple of days away. Highly recommended. Particularly the part about going skiing and skydiving instead of attending school and work.