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Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The Great Indoors

With global temperatures rising fast, indoor ice climbing may be the future. Check out these photos from around the globe. Clockwise from the top, that's the Ice Factor in Kinlochleven, Scotland; the Toyota Ice Hall at Vertical Chill in West Yorkshire, England (there's also a Vertical Chill in London); and O2 World in Seoul, South Korea.

This is real indoor ice, not that unsatisfactory plastic stuff that a few gyms have installed. I visited the Ice Factor gym in Scotland a couple of years ago and it's a bizarre experience, like climbing inside a giant, glass-walled meat locker. Most of the artificial stuff is more like snice (a snow-ice mix) than water ice, which is great practice for Ben Nevis but won't do much to prepare you for the fragile columns of the Canadian Rockies. But it's better than nothing—if you live in London, for example, it's at least half a day's drive to reach even the fickle ice of the Lakes District; it's 12 hours to Scotland. More and more gyms also are offering dry-tooling practice areas. This crack at the PowerPlant in Tyrone, Pennsylvania, looks like good action.

Indoor skiing also is moving onto genuine artificial snow (unlike the plastic mats in use for some years). The amazing, 25-story Ski Dubai just opened in the United Arab Emirates, with a quarter-mile-long slope, quad chair, ersatz Swiss village for your hot cocoa, and fake glades. What's next? Indoor bump runs? Dog sledding?

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