More Malaysians have been taking to the slopes in recent years on winter sport vacations. The idea of experiencing snow and spending time with family and friends is appealing and an opportunity to try something new. With globetrotting becoming easier, thanks to direct flights and affordable travel offers, more people have decided to hit the slopes on holiday.
In order to fully utilise one’s time at the ski resort, it is now possible to prepare for the ski and snowboarding adventure right here at home. The newly opened First Traxx is the country’s first indoor ski and snowboarding training centre. Founded by Izhan Hassan, the centre aims to introduce people to skiing and snowboarding while preparing them for their upcoming holiday. Skiing or snowboarding lessons in situ can be costly, and First Traxx has the facilities to prepare you for your time on the mountain. In RM, we add happily.
A big fan of winter sports, Izhan started skiing eight years ago. “I have a long-standing injury to my knee and I thought skiing wouldn’t be so good for me, so I progressed to snowboarding,” he says. “It turned out to be better for my knees, so I have been doing that for a few seasons now.”
The idea to start First Traxx first came about in December last year, when Izhan and his brother were looking for something to do in between ski seasons. “Our whole family more or less skis or snowboards,” he explains. “We were talking about how we had so little to do in between ski seasons in terms of preparing for the next season. You lose a lot of muscle memory and the core strength to do well on the slopes. Despite what people say, going to the gym and running are actually poor substitutes in terms of preparing for the next season. The only thing that really prepares you for skiing is actually skiing.”
It took them less than six months to make their idea a reality. They learnt about a ski simulator system from the Netherlands, which is used in a lot of countries off-season. Professional athletes use the ski simulator to improve their technique when they are not on the slopes.
The next challenge for them was to find an accessible location to set up the centre. They needed a place that was big enough, with high ceilings for the ski machines, as they can be inclined to a high level. Eventually, they settled on a warehouse in Axis Business Park in Petaling Jaya.
They also found the right instructors for the centre by advertising online. Izhan knew a few instructors from his holidays in Japan and started asking around for recommendations. Eventually with the help of a Facebook advertisement, the news quickly spread and they were getting a lot of emails from professional instructors from around the world — many of whom who were curious about working in Malaysia. At First Traxx, all the instructors are certified and are trained in skiing and snowboarding. The chief instructor is Rob Forbes, who has worked as an instructor, coach and trainer in many famous ski resorts in Japan, Austria, Australia and the US.
Since the launch in October, customers have walked in mainly through word-of-mouth, with a lot of people coming to prepare for their ski holidays and some people signing up for fitness purposes. Izhan notes that children, especially, pick up skiing and snowboarding very quickly and the centre is usually busy during the school holidays. A lot of adults have also been signing up.
He says the centre is not for people to experience snow but to prepare them for their upcoming travels. “Our biggest challenge has been educating the public that this is not like Ski Dubai,” he says. “There is no artificial snow arena here to substitute your ski holiday. We are here to make you better prepared for it ... so you can turn up on the mountain and not waste a day or two learning how to ski. You will already be able to ski at the beginning of your holiday.”
People who want to sign up for lessons can choose between a private or a group class. The lesson structure is one hour long and people are grouped according to their ability, ranging from beginner to advanced. Group classes usually consist of six people who are divided into two groups. Each group goes on the slope for 10 minutes and then rotates. The centre provides ski boots, skis and snowboards. Students are advised to wear comfortable clothing and long socks for lessons.
Izhan notes that 10 minutes on the ski simulator is equivalent to half a day spent on the actual slopes because of the amount of time people spend waiting in line for the ski lift, sitting on the ski lift and finally making their way down the slope when they actually go skiing. “Within 10 minutes you will be sweating a lot and it will give your legs and core muscles a huge workout,” he says.
Compared to snow, the mat on the ski simulator is much less forgiving. Your technique has to be accurate and you cannot cut corners because it feels harder than actual snow. “If you practise on the machine, your technique will be very accurate on the mountain,” Izhan says.
No business like snow business? Izhan’s got it right, we say.
First Traxx is located at Unit UG-3A, Block D, Axis Business Park, 10 Jalan Bersatu 13/4, PJ. To find out more visit www.firsttraxx.com.