“We wanted that lovely wow-factor,” he says, sipping a cappuccino against a snowy backdrop. “What we were looking for was authenticity.”
Chill Factore sucks you in from the grim outdoors and deposits you into a cosy Alpine village, which stills smells faintly of its pine furnishings. A stone-paved street of cafés (including Boost Juice and Gloria Jean’s), snow gear shops and stalls selling sweets like a miniature Christmas market, leads to a 10m climbing wall or upstairs to a selection of restaurants and bars.
Here you can grab a tasty crêpe in The Mont Blanc, enjoy a slap-up meal in The Eiger or indulge in some après-ski in Chilli’s Bar — all with panoramic views of the slopes.
Which brings us to the raison d’être of Chill Factore. The Alpine village is all well and good, but it’s a side dish to the main event — the skiing and snowboarding.
Walking from the changing area to the ski slopes, the temperature plummets to below zero — a cold blast hits just like it does when you leave a mountain restaurant. At this point beginners turn left to the nursery slope and the more experienced head right to a longer piste flanked by two drag lifts.
“We didn’t want to be like Piccadilly Circus,” Moore says, explaining the decision to separate the two runs. “We’ve had top class French skiers ask us how we manage to get the feel of being in the Alps and the answer is the expanse. We’ve spread the slopes out so you get a lovely feeling of space.”
The absence of more expert skiers and snowboarders hurtling down the slopes probably makes things less intimidating for learners, too. The beginners’ area certainly seems like a calm place to be as first-time snowboarders practise their turns with one of Chill Factore’s fully qualified instructors.
Another, Adam, leads us to the main slope to show us the ropes. It doesn’t take long. Midweek, during the day, there’s no queue, so we simply pick a drag lift, go up and come back down. It might be the largest indoor slope in the country but after my second run I’m beginning to wonder how Adam, having done several seasons in various ski resorts, has lasted a year here without getting bored.
Perhaps by lulling you into a false sense of the Alps, Chill Factore pitches your expectations a little too high. But as soon as I remember that a snow dome is never going to offer the thrills and spills of, say, Chamonix, I enjoy it a whole lot more. After all, I’m snowboarding. In Manchester. On real snow.
The white stuff is another of Chill Factore’s selling points, impressing even the British ski team. Each night the temperature is reduced to -6˚C so water particles, pumped from snow guns, freeze and fall as snow. If you get there first thing in the morning there’s fresh powder, and even later in the day you get a soft landing, which is helpful if you want to hit the slope’s permanent rail or kicker. If you’re into your freestyle, the time to come is Saturday night when the main slope is transformed into a snow park.
Less of a challenge, but equally fun, is the 60m luge. Inspired by the Cresta Run in St Moritz, it’s like a frozen water flume sliced in half to give you the added thrill of thinking you might fly out of the slide at any moment.
Next door to this is tubing — sliding down an icy slope on a rubber ring (above). It sounds tame, but take up the offer of being launched off, spinning in circles, and you’ll soon learn how far screams reverberate round a snow dome.
As we leave we bump into Peter, fresh from a meeting about turning Chill Factore into a Christmas wonderland. (There’s talk of a Santa’s Grotto, thousands of fairy lights, and polar bears glowing from within. “The word I’m looking for is enchantment,” he says, ending in a whisper.)
Our cheeks are rosy red from the chilled air. “You look like you’ve just spent a day in the mountains,” he says. And give or take a few kilometres of piste, it really feels like we have.
While you’re there take in …
The Madchester days might be long gone but Manchester still leaves night owls spoilt for choice. Take your pick from the cavernous bars of Deansgate Locks, the quirky clubs of the Northern Quarter, and the more high-brow offerings at arts hub The Lowry. For more information see www.visitmanchester.com.
A place of worship for devoted shoppers everywhere, the fifth largest shopping centre in the UK is a snowball’s throw away from Chill Factore. Fans of Gok Wan will recognise the interior as the setting for the catwalk in the TV show How To Look Good Naked.
Nicknamed the Theatre of Dreams, the home ground of Manchester United FC is open daily for stadium tours. Visit the dressing room, walk down the player’s tunnel and stand in Alex Ferguson’s spot in the dug out.