Tom and I wonder this every time we go past the massive building next to the motorway. Are they trying to say “Chill Factory”? Is it some sort of a mathematical formula? Is it silent? So preoccupied was I with the errant vowel that I never really thought about what happened inside. As far as I was concerned, Chill Factore (e?) was a place for people who could ski and snowboard – and I was not one of those.
So, when I got an invitation from Chill Factore to visit during Half Term, I accepted. It turns out you don’t have to be able to ski or snowboard to go there, so it looked like it could be a fun day out for Tom (and a chance for me to get on the inside and find out about the e.)
We set off first thing on Monday morning. I had a cold – not what you really want when you’re going to a ski slope, but I was sure it wouldn’t be that chilly inside. When we arrived, Tom was wrapped up in winter gear and I asked exactly how cold it was going to be. Zero degrees, apparently. Although I’d read somewhere that the snow was real, that hadn’t quite registered with me and I imagined some sort of plastic slope. I decided not to bother with the special gear – after all, I’d just stand at the side, shivering and taking photographs.
As soon as we walked out on to the slope, I knew what they’d meant about the snow being real. The air was fresh and cool and the stuff underfoot was the real crunchy, powdery deal. Tom had the chance to try sledging, The Luge and tubing.
I’ll explain: sledging is obvious – the thing you dream of doing every winter when you’re a child but only actually get a chance to do approximately twice in your life (unless you live in the mountains). The Luge is a fast, toboggan-style slide, (inspired by the Cresta Run at San Moritz, if you know what that is). Tubing is where you sit in a massive inflatable ring and get launched down a hill with a mini half-pipe at the bottom.
“Err… are the grown-ups allowed a go?” I asked, as I watched Tom carry his sledge back to the top of the slope with a massive grin on his face.
Next thing, we were racing each other. It was the most fun I have had in ages.
The Luge looked frankly terrifying and I said I’d stand back and watch. But again, when I saw Tom’s face as he tore out of the thing, I wanted a go.
“Just think of Cool Runnings,” said the staff member at the top of the slide.
“Tha – ” and I was off, really fast, sweeping up the sides and racing the 60 metres to the bottom. Then doing it all over again.
Last up was the tubing.
“Don’t spin me,” I said on the first go, then “Actually, can you spin me?” on the second.
Watching Tom career down the slope in his mini tube was scary, but he loved it and jumped straight on the travelator to the to top. The tubing was Tom’s favourite as well mine. When I asked him which of the activities he enjoyed best, he said “definitely the doughnuts.”
What had started out as a way to fill a Half Term morning turned out to be one of the best days out we’d had in a long time. Tom keeps talking about it and I think the next time we go past, the discussion will be less about the e and more about when we can go again.
Oh and about the e – apparently, it stands for ‘extreme, exciting or whatever you want it to mean.’ Excellent.
My verdict: Manchester’s great at precipitation but usually fails on the snow front. This is a great way to have some magical, wintry fun without waiting until you’re 100 for the next proper snow day. It comes with a choice of places to eat, a pub and a viewing gallery for those not joining in with the action. As with many attactions, I’d like to see some single parent family prices, rather than the outdated ‘Family of Four’ package – but this is a widespread issue. Overall, the prices seem quite high, but money can’t buy snow and this is a top notch indoor day out. Go to Chill Factore in the run-up to Christmas and you could see Santa, Peppa Pig or characters from Ice Age, beating the standard shopping centre grotto by miles. There’s also lots of other fun stuff to do there, including being launched down the slope in a massive transparent ball, snow play for toddlers and extreme sledging. We give it an e for enjoyable.