The conditional lifting of travel restrictions has, again, opened up the possibility of foreign travel for people from Belgium, and Ice Mountain is ready to help them prepare.
For many, this is a much needed boost after months and months of curtailment including lockdowns.
Among the options now open to folk here is the possibility of a spot of skiing this coming winter.
Of course, after such a long impasse some skiing enthusiasts may find themselves a tad rusty.
If that’s the case, there’s a place in the west of Belgium which is ideal for brushing up on your ski-ing skills: the Ice Mountain Adventure Park, an indoor skiing centre (and much else besides).
Actually, there is a relative lack of such facilities in this country and Ice Mountain is thought to be one of only three such sites in the whole of Belgium!
Certainly, compared to somewhere else like the UK there’s something of a dearth of such places here.
But Ice Mountain, situated in Flanders, on the Belgian/French border and only a comfortable one hour drive from Brussels, is one such place.
The facilities here are first class for people in search of some serious pre-skiing holiday prep and the two ski slopes are also available to those who may not be going skiing this winter and just want to give it a go.
If you haven’t skied before it is a good idea to have a spot of training with one of the centre’s ski coaches before you are to be left on your own. The slopes are 210m and 85m in length, the highest being on a gradient of 40m from top to bottom.
Unlike some other ski centres, the snow here is real – 40cm deep – and it all takes place in a huge hall where the snow is maintained at a constant temperature of -6 degrees. This is achieved via a series of motors located under the snow itself.
Every night a couple of snowmobile-type vehicles venture on to the snow to, basically, flatten it and make it ready for the next day.
Equipment can be hired, including ski gloves, or obtained from the on-site shop. Be warned that ski gloves and warm clothes are mandatory.
There’s also a couple of very pleasant restaurants, including one decked out with a typical Alpine-style décor that would not look out of place in the Alps. Some people even visit just to watch the skiers and have a spot to eat or drink.
In fact, here’s a lot more to this place than just traditional skiing because it also offers indoor ski-diving, snowboarding and other activities such as paint-balling. There is also an impressive outdoor kids playground and skydiving, also very popular.
The parking is free and the centre is relatively easy to access from Brussels. About half its visitors, which average about 350,000 annually, come from across the border in France or the south of Belgium.
The slopes have a maximum of 250 people at any one time but, during peak period like the upcoming Christmas and New year, this can be increased, albeit with staggered entry times.
The complex is owned by a local businesswoman who, during the lockdown, was faced with either shutting the whole place down or keeping it partially operating by maintaining the temperature of the snow.
She went for the expensive latter option which meant the snow was kept at the same temperature as it is now. Solar panels fitted to the roof of the building helped meet the large energy costs of this, as they do all the time.
The ski slopes opened in 1999 and the skydiving was added in 2006. The owner also operates Jungle City, an adventure park about 30 minutes away in Tournai.
In an effort to turn the centre into an all-year-round attraction (beyond the winter period) other activities have been added over the years, including the skydiving, laser games and the high rope challenge.
Prices are very reasonable and start from as little as €17. You can book for one hour, two hours or the full day and pricing reflects this. It is best to consult the website for up to date prices.
Of course, the centre complies with all the current restrictions in Belgium although it is not necessary to wear a mask indoors.
A spokesman told this site, “It has been a very, very hard time for us here and we were, in fact, closed for a whole year due to the pandemic. But we are now fully open and have had some great attendance figures of late.
“We are gearing up for our busiest time of the year and, yes, this is a great place to prepare for that winter skiing holiday!”