Sunday, March 25, 2012

Vélo avec des Skis

Biking in Paris, avec Skis

Yesterday I went to the world's longest indoor ski slope, Snowhall in Amneville, northeastern France. I was also testing some new equipment, a GoPro Hero 2 helmet camera. For the first time in my blog, I have focused more on the video than on the text and pictures, so be sure to check out the video as well:

Episode 1: Biking in Paris... avec Skis

My trip started early in the morning from the western side of Paris, and I needed to get to the eastern train station to catch a high-speed train towards Amneville.

The start of the day's journey

For a long time I've been meaning to get to ski slopes with the help of a bike, and it made perfect sense for my trip. Getting to the train station would be easy by bike, but complicated in the crowded subway trains that do not even have a direct connections to where I was going. And there's a wonderful public bike rental system in Paris, it feels like there are rental stations almost at every street corner. The stations are automated, and one day rental costs 1.70€ (!). Register at Velib.

Paris is difficult, even if wonderful, city to bike in though. What made my trip easy was that I started before the rush hour. When the cars and people are on the streets, you have be far more careful in selecting bike routes. There are good bike routes and then there are ... bike lanes where you'll fit in with the buses and trucks. Avoid the latter.

Episode 2: Trains that run 316 km/h

Slightly exceeded speed limit?

To get to Amneville, I first considered renting a car. However, since Amneville is 350 kilometers from Paris, it would have taken at least four hours for one-way drive. Fortunately France has an excellent system of high-speed trains, the TGV. I only needed to get to the train station and then a short taxi ride at the other end, and then the main part of the trip would take just an hour and half. And at what speed! The train felt fast but I realized how fast it really was when I turned on my GPS and it showed 316 km/h!

Episode 3: Snowhall

Truth in advertising?

Snowhall is the world's longest indoor ski slope at 620 meters. It may also be the highest at 90 meters. I have not been to a higher one, at least.

(The indoor ski hall in Bottrop, Germany may challenge these numbers at claimed length of 640 meters but their slope is zigzagging.)

Snowhall has three slopes, the main one, a small beginner's slope, and a tiny sledging area. All slopes are straight, and none of them is particularly steep. As you can see from the video, it is easy to ski the main slope without making any turns. But its length makes it still fun to ski.

Bottom area of the ski hills

Top of the main ski slope

The main slope. The other end is too far to see.

As usual with many of the indoor slopes, Snowhall is heavily used in training both alpine athletes and children. When I was in Snowhall, a group of children were learning to ski a race track; the track was fun for myself as well, by adding challenge to otherwise a relatively easy slope.

Ecole Ski de France (ESF) has an active program here

The small ski slope for beginners

Snowhall is located in an area with casinos, hotels, bowling places, bars and restaurants. People come here for fun.

Snowhall from the outside

Outside the Snowhall

Episode 4: I'll Be Back... Maybe...

I skied for two and half hours, and hiked afterwards to the top of the hill where Snowhall is on. Coming down took a while... waiting for the taxi took a while... and then we got stuck in the traffic. The end result was that I was one minute late for my TGV train back to Paris. Unfortunately, the next one would leave two hours later.

Fortunately, I did not have to buy new tickets. The very helpful ladies in the SCNF office not only gave me new tickets but also money back for some weird reason. Apparently the other train was not as high class as the original one, so the ticket price was lower. Or maybe the evening tickets are cheaper than afternoon tickets. Hard to tell. I'm glad though.

At the end of my trip, I rode the subway back to my hotel. But I have to tell you, carrying skis in packed metro cars is not fun. Nor is wearing your heavy jacket.

Metro avec skis

Important Parameters

Two hours at the Snowhall cost 20.50€ on weekends. Your best bet for getting into the hall is with your own car, but taking a train ride to Metz and then grabbing a taxi is also possible.

An empty after-ski bar at the Snowhall


Snowhall is a good indoor ski hall, among the best such as the one in Bottrop or in Landgraaf. It has enough space, sufficient height and length, and jumps, rails and other things to keep you occupied. However, none of these places are as good as the one in Dubai, which is the only one that in my mind is steep enough to entertain you for longer period of time.


The Planetskier likes to be portrayed in bathroom colors

Photo and video credits (c) 2012 by Jari Arkko

1 comment:

  1. The place looks magnificent. Thanks for giving me the idea of where to go when I'm in France the next time!

    french ski