Have a look inside the GTA’s rad new indoor ski slope
No snow, no chairlifts and, best of all, no jackets—hitting the slopes feels a little different at Axis Freestyle Academy. Vaughan’s new indoor dry slope, the first of its kind in Canada, opens its doors this weekend. We dropped in to see the space, test out its trampolines and find out how you ski down a giant grey carpet anyway.
Co-founder Alex Ching first clipped into a pair of skis at age 12. He’s had ambitions to run an indoor slope for years. When he got laid off from his IT job in 2014, he enlisted Simon Chang, an old friend and fellow slope enthusiast, and Adam Zig, a bank worker and backcountry snowboarder, to help him make a go of it. They visited a dry slope in Utah, scoped out other indoor hills in the U.K. and Australia, and researched a trampoline facility in Whistler before taking over a 20,000-square-foot former bath and kitchen depot near Vaughan Mills in early 2016. The trio put have put about $600,000 into the business so far, and, after three months of cleaning, another three months of construction and countless dry runs (no pun intended), they’re ready to debut the project.
The first thing guests will see when they walk in this Saturday is the lobby, where the three co-founders—so far, the only full-time staff—will sell boards, bindings and merch:
The slope is a 17-foot-tall carte blanche, on which skiers and snowboarders can mix and match ramps, rails and other features to perfect tricks and combo lines. Parents and other observers can watch the action from a second-floor balcony (the second storey also houses a yoga studio and, eventually, a pro shop; a strength and conditioning area is also in the works on the first floor):
What exactly will people be skiing on? The slope’s surface is a bristly, AstroTurf-like material that mimics the texture of an actual hill. Because there’s no snow to push around, it’s more difficult to carve, but staff spray it with a couple gallons of soapy water to make it slick and speedy (a layer of Blueskin keeps the water from seeping into the wooden foundations of the slope). The result is like gliding down a cushier, more wipeout-friendly patch of soft ice:
“The Launcher” is an adrenalin junkie’s dream contraption. A skier or snowboarder grabs hold of a bar that’s connected to a metal track, and, as the bar moves along the length of the machine, it picks up speed and sends them zooming down a patch of flat turf towards a massive ramp. Once Axis is up and running, the jump will lead out the garage door or into a giant air bag:
Next to The Launcher, freestylers can strap on foam boards and practice their flips, grabs, rotations and handplants in an area with four trampolines, padded ledges and a foam pit:
The co-founders envision Axis as a year-round, all-in-one destination where beginners and slope fiends alike can try out new tricks without the risk of bailing, receive coaching, hit the gym, buy gear, get tuned up and, finally, decompress with a few downward dogs. Or, you know, just bounce around:
Axis Freestyle Academy opens on Saturday, October 8. 356 Four Valley Dr., Vaughan, 647-898-2926, axisfreestyle.com.