Indoor snow is one of the most exciting innovations of our generation. Our ingenuity has transformed a promising concept into some of the most successful leisure destinations in Europe.
Having monitored the progress of snow making technologies around the world, it became clear in the mid-1990s that the development of indoor snow centres in the UK had become a viable proposition.
In 1994, encouraged by the early signs of promise at Tamworth Snowdome, we developed our own concept that pushed the idea to a more ambitious scale, capable of delivering a more immersive snowsport experience.
At the time, people’s leisure habits were changing, with less time being spent on traditional sporting pursuits and more time being spent shopping, at the gym, and in bars, cafes and restaurants.
The concept for our first indoor snow centre skilfully addressed this shift in consumer habits by creating a combined retail and leisure destination that was able to attract visitors and keep them captivated for long periods of time, the draw of the combined offer greater than the sum of its parts.
In addition to the indoor snow centre, the development comprised a 16 screen cinema, a tenpin bowling alley, family entertainment centre, a health and fitness club, and an extensive range of restaurants, bars and shops. Opened in 2002, Xscape Milton Keynes proved an instant success.
This pioneering development provided us with a unique insight into the technical complexities associated with the integration of a 44 metre high, 170 metre long cold box with a diverse retail and leisure mix. This knowledge would prove to be highly sought after. In 2003, we were invited to deliver the next Xscape facility in Castleford, and two years later in 2005 our third Xscape facility opened in Braehead, Glasgow. These centres pushed the concept further, integrating larger learner facilities and more ambitious leisure elements including, larger more visible climbing walls, a high level assault course, a giant 3G swing, a skydiving wind tunnel, and an ice climbing wall.
The three Xscape facilities have been hugely successful; Xscape Milton Keynes alone boasts an annual footfall of 7.3 million people .
Following on from the success of the Xscape facilities, we were approached by a new client, Extreme Cool Ltd, and developed the vision for a realistic Alpine experience in Manchester. It would become the UK’s largest and most authentic indoor snow experience.
Opened in 2007, Chill Factorᵉ features a snow slope 180 metres long and 100 metres wide; over three times the width of the first slope constructed in Tamworth. The hugely popular facility is favoured by beginners and elite athletes alike, and is home to both Snowsport England and Disability Snowsport UK.
The success of the British Winter Olympic team in Sochi forms part of the legacy of this emerging building typology; our centres providing an exceptional real snow environment in which ‘the fridge kids’ have been able to train and excel.
As we look to the future, consumer expectations continue to grow and our ideas must evolve to match them. Creating authentic, memorable experiences will be vital to the success of our next generation of leisure destinations.