Sunday, October 16, 2011

Speed Skiing in Germany

The ski hall is a very visible landmark in Neuss
There are no speed limits in German highways, right? Wrong. I got a speeding ticket yesterday on my small 650 kilometer detour to ski in Jever Skihalle.

"That guy is spending all his time on the ski slopes". I get that a lot. The reality is that I have two or three good trips per year, but all the rest is squeezed in already incredibly tight time schedules on business trips. Spending late evenings on the road for a precious few minutes of skiing. In this case I am on a family weekend trip to visit museums in Germany, and my schedule was, if possible, even tighter. I applied for a permission to disappear at 7 PM. However, since we are in Sinsheim the nearest skiing was 325 kilometers away in Neuss, Germany. In the good old times this would be an hour's trip, but today stau and speed cameras are making it a slightly more tedious. My trip takes three hours one way, two hours on the site, and back in Sinsheim at 3AM.  And even with all this slow crawl through the highway system, I still got a ticket. For exceeding the speed limit by 11 kilometers an hour. Completely accidentally, of course.

Evening on a German highway
Incidentally, during this year I have collected tickets from California, New Hampshire, Poland, Slovakia, and now Germany. Luckily not all have lead to an actual ticket that I had to pay, in some cases we were left off with a warning. I've also had an accident in India (not my fault) and scratched my car twice while parking. Not a record that I am particularly proud of, but I drive a lot and most of these cases were mistakes. Such as not knowing we had to pay highway tax, crossing a forbidden direction sign to find space to turn our car around, or missing a reduced speed sign. But I know I will never again rent a car in Brussels, because every time I have done it I have ended up damaging the car while parking.

Indoor skiing at Neuss

But back to more important topics, i.e., skiing. This is day three of my season and the third country I have skied in. So far only indoor skiing. Not good, but better than nothing.

Jever Skihalle is a modern indoor sports and entertainment complex near the Dutch border between Düsseldorf and Köln. They house skiing, tubing, climbing, restaurants, bars, nightclubs, and a classy hotel. When I arrived Friday evening at 10PM, a steady stream of party goers were arriving to the nightclubs and bars. The ski slope is the most visible landmark around, but otherwise skiing appeared to be like a small side note at the time. I entered through the nightclub door, for instance, and had to find my way through the building to the ski area.

Jever has one main slope and one beginner area. The main slope also offers a snow park with some rails and jumps. The beginner area has a tubing area and an ice bar.

A view from the top of the main slope

The main slope is nice for two reasons. One, this is yet another indoor ski area that likes to run its snow cannons during the opening hours. I think this is awesome, as it creates a winter feeling, reduces visibility to the structures, and creates a more realistic skiing experience. Not to mention that skiing on fresh snow is nice. Two, they have the only indoor quad chair lift that I have seen besides the one in Dubai. The lift in Dubai is painfully slow, but this one runs at the same speed a chair lift would run on a real mountain. At least a non-detachable ski lift. The lift can take 5000 people up the "mountain" per hour.

The main entrance

The main slope is OK to ski, but it is a bit too short and a notch steeper gradient would have made the slope far more fun to ski. Now it feels like making a turn slows you down too much. There is race training on this slope, but I suspect the racers too would like a bit steeper slope. Short slopes are OK, as long as the skiing is fun. As it is, the Jever slope is fun to ski for a while but I would probably get bored after a couple of hours.

Top of the main slope

There are ten or fifteen other customers on the slope during my visit. I think that is quite a reasonable turnout for late Friday evening. The chair lift can definitely handle a large crowd on weekends.

On the chair lift


I was amazed by the after-ski possibilities. As mentioned, the main door takes you to the nightclubs and bars. Never mind that probably no one from the bar crowd had been skiing earlier, there was definitely a big party.

Note the mountain views in after-ski
If I didn't have to drive back to Sinsheim, I would have checked my gear to the garderobe and gone to the bar.



My overall verdict for this indoor site is as follows. On the plus side:

  • Real winter feeling, excellent snow
  • Best lift system that I have seen indoors
  • Best after-ski that I have seen indoors, competitive even with the real ski resort after-ski

The sign at the main entrance
On the negative side:

  • Steeper ski run would be nice. Of course, this applies to most indoor ski slopes.
  • Main ski slope is narrow and crowded due to the snow park being on the same slope.
  • Road access is patrolled by speed cameras.

Important Parameters

Never Skihalle is at An Der Skihalle 1, Neuss, Germany. They are open every day of the year from 9 to 23, which is important to people like me who only make it there late in night. An evening ticket costs 25€, a day ticket 29€, and for some reason they sold me a one hour student ticket for 18€. The ticket cards cost an additional 4€, but if you return the ticket you get those euros back. They rent not just ski equipment but also clothing. Skis and poles alone are 7€/day and an all-inclusive packet is 16€/day.

A soup in the Salzburger Hochalm restaurant costs 3.50€. There are plenty of on-piste and on-site restaurant and bar options.

The main ski slope

The main ski slope is 110 meters high and 300 meters long, and the steepness at the top is 28%. Skiing down the slope takes about 25 seconds.

Other Slopes

I have now skied in 9 of the 40 slopes and 5 of the 15 countries in the Wikipedia list of indoor ski slopes, as well as one country (Indonesia) and slope that is not on that list. On this trip I actually wanted to tick off another one, Snowhall in Amneville, France, but I ended up not being too interested in spending another night driving. Hopefully future trips will allow a visit there. Snowhall is the world's longest indoor ski slope at 620 meters. It should be easy to arrange a visit on some future trip to Belgium, Germany or France. I should also visit the remaining ones in the Netherlands and Germany; there are a few left. I am also hoping that I can visit Japanese indoor ski areas some day. I already tried this in 2009 in Hiroshima, but the slope there was closed just before my visit.

It is snowing at the top!
Photo credits (c) 2011 by Jari Arkko

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