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Ian Waller enjoys a dad’s day out on the slopes at Mendip Activity Centre

“Looking good dad!” came the call from my older teenage son on the sidelines, as I whizzed to a smooth stop at the bottom on the 165m ski slope at Mendip Activity Centre.

It was a rare compliment from a source more likely to comment on my extreme age (according to them!) or lack of fashion sense (fair enough), but hey, I wasn’t complaining! OK, Somerset might not be a regular stop-off for the international skiing fraternity, but for anyone new to the sport or looking to return to the snowy version at some point soon, this venue makes a great place to get your ski legs working again.

The ski slope at Mendip is ideal for all ages

Mendip Activity Centre is a pretty amazing place for many reasons. As a family, we’ve been along for the superb frisbee golf and stand-up paddle boarding (which actually takes place a few miles away). There’s also a host of other activities to enjoy, ranging from archery and abseiling (although not at the same time!), to kayaking, bushcraft, orienteering, rock climbing and air rifle shooting. 

My boys and I had tried the skiing introduction lesson a few months ago, and while the boys moved over to snowboarding (yes, you can do that too…) I stuck with the skis. And I have to say, I absolutely love it. Three lessons in now and I’ve graduated to the top of the slope, various turns, hitting the bumps and not falling off the drag lift that takes you to the top of the slope (I managed this on the second week!).

Instruction is available for all levels, even complete beginners

You see, this sort of adventure fun is for us grown-ups too – after all, why let the kids have all the fun? Each lesson is about an hour and a half, and for that time all thoughts of work, bills and clearing up the shed go away while I focus on bent knees, head forward, look where you’re going and having fun.

With a limited number of people allowed on the slope each time, you need to book ahead but that also means you don’t have to worry about mixing it with hordes of other skiers. For my last few lessons, I’d shared the piste with Andy and his nine year old son Sonny. Sonny is a joy to watch. He’s got that gung-ho, go for it attitude, combined with a dad’s guiding hand and clearly some impressive skills.

Andy explained that they took up skiing when Sonny’s sister was preparing for a school ski trip. In fact, the sister didn’t really take to it, but Sonny and Andy loved it, and now it’s clearly giving them some real quality and fun dad and son time.

And the kids love it too!

My instructor, Dan, explained that the skiers they get at Mendip range from youngsters to families and adults, either looking for some homegrown fun or preparing for a holiday somewhere fancy with the real snow stuff to play with. 

“These lessons give them some real confidence and skills in preparation for the real thing,” explained Dan. “No, it’s not exactly like snow, but the skills are the same so it really does help.”

For me, I’ve got a couple more lessons booked by which time I should be good enough to be allowed on the slopes unaccompanied, possibly with the boys zooming past on snowboards in family formation!

Do I recommend it? With bells on! The team at Mendip Activity Centre is hugely friendly and professional, all of the kit you’ll need is supplied and the pizzas and hot chocolate in the on-site Alpine Bar are very good too. You can even book in for holiday activity sessions and stay at the centre’s own campsite.