By now, you’ve probably heard about Malaysia’s first skiing centre, First Traxx, located in Section 13 Petaling Jaya. It’s open to regular skiers and snowboarders, and novices, and is the ideal place to train for your first snow holiday.
The SHAPE team was invited to have a private session with the center’s Head Instructor, Rob Forbes, and we discovered that it’s not just a thrilling sport, but a killer workout for abs and legs. Here’s what Editor-in-Chief Seema Viswanathan had to say:
“It’s a serious workout”
I’d read in one of SHAPE’s articles before that an afternoon on the slopes can burn about 740 calories – the same as an hour-long spinning class. Skiing also works your leg muscles more than pedaling does, according to research in the Journal of Sports Science & Medicine. I know what the scientists mean; my quads, hamstrings and glutes got a really good workout. That’s because you’re constantly in a half-squat position, and using your core and your legs to control your movements. Also, during much of the time, I was making tiny, tiny movements with my core to try and stay upright without falling forward. Ski instructor Ann Schorling, a member of the Professional Ski Instructors of America and the American Association of Snowboard Instructors, says all that wobbling constantly engages your stabiliser muscles in your core and lower body. I felt really lucky that I workout regularly and inwardly thanked my trainer for giving me lots of weighted squats and ab work to do at gym. If you’re a regular at functional training and bodyweight exercices, this should be quite manageable – not easy, but manageable – as it was for me, but if you’re not, be prepared for sore muscles the day after.
“Don’t expect to turn into a pro-skier overnight”
SHAPE Deputy Editor, Jay Jayaraj and I shared our one-hour-plus session with Rob. He took turns giving us 10 minutes of personal time each, so, in total, I had half an hour with him. At the end of that, all I could do was move backwards up the slope and slide down again to the metal bar at the front. I could roughly control how fast I went and just barely managed to turn right or left. I guess I shouldn’t have expected to go “wheeeee…” while gliding up and down that wet and white AstroTurf conveyor belt that stands in for a real snow slope within my first class. Although Rob said that we did pretty well for first-timers, I suspect he was just being polite. He did say, though, that everybody has a tendency to favour one leg over the other, and that this affects not just how we stand in the ski boots, but which direction we tend to ‘flow’ towards. Jay kept sliding to her right, and I couldn’t stop veering to my left. That was the hardest part; staying on course. I was also worried that I would fall forward and hit my face on the metal bar at the bottom of the slope, where you start, but that bar helped me to balance myself. There’s also a reflective glass wall in front of you, and you’re meant to keep watching yourself on that mirror to correct your posture, instead of down at your feet because if you look down, you lose balance.
“Save your time and money by training here before that skiing holiday“
Rob told me that it should take you only up to six 1-hour sessions at First Traxx before you’re ready to tackle the slopes at Niseko. Some people may even manage it within two to four sessions. A six-session package, (with instructor and all equipment) will cost you RM830 (that’s roughly RM140 an hour), while a one-hour session on your holiday slopes will cost more than RM150 (at the cheapest) without the equipment rental. And we’ve heard of people not being able to ski properly even after two days of instruction. So, why waste your precious holiday time learning there when you can train here and play on the powder as soon as you get to your destination? If you’re just looking to get a feel for skiing, to suss out if this sport is something you want to incorporate into your workout regime or weekend activity, you can take a one-hour class (which includes an instructor’s tuition and supervision and all equipment) for RM159 per person. You can bring up to five of your friends in one session, but they’ll limit it to three people up on the slope at any one time. You can even hold a party or corporate event here for up to 8 people for RM1, 500, which gets you one hour of the slope and 45 minutes before and after the slope hour for your gathering.
At the end of the session, I felt that this was a really good place to come for people who a) have always wanted to try this sport but can’t make it to a snowy mountain anytime soon b) want to train for an upcoming sky holiday or c) will try anything (or any workout) once, just for fun. It’s not cheap, but it certainly isn’t prohibitive, and well worth the money for the instruction, feedback and thrill you get.