PJ ski centre taps into growing interest
Najihah S 
First Traxx charges RM159 per person for an hour’s training. There are also group packages

Jetting to a ski getaway at Chamonix-Mont-Blanc in France or Hokkaido in Japan is a dream for many. But as fun as it looks, the process of skiing is complex as it requires athletic skills.

Fortunately, there is a training arena for skiing and snowboarding for those eager to pick up the skills. The arena is not only useful  as a practice ground for those who will be skiing on snow-capped mountains for the first time, it also allows anyone who is interested in the sport to try it without breaking the bank.

First Traxx Sdn Bhd developed the country’s first indoor ski and snowboarding training facility, which opened its doors to the public in October. Its founder, Izhan Hassan, who was an avid skier when he was studying abroad, wanted to share his interest with fellow Malaysians.

Located in Petaling Jaya, First Traxx is 7,500 sq ft in size and is equipped with a 10m long artificial slope made of astro turf, which is softer than real snow, to ensure safety.

Izhan, who was a professional chef for two decades before this venture, did comprehensive research prior to starting his new business. He began doing the groundwork to introduce these two sports to Malaysians and one of the strategies he used was looking at their travel habits.

“We looked at increasing passenger numbers to winter destinations over the last four years which signalled increasing numbers of snow sports enthusiasts. We found that all cities with direct flights to Hokkaido in Japan which is a popular skiing destination had at least a similar centre. Hence we opened one in the country,” he explains.

Izhan reveals that the challenge in opening an indoor skiing arena is sourcing the equipment as well as maintaining the place. Construction of the venue alone took two months and he had to import the equipment such as helmets, poles and boards.

“The equipment is made in the Netherlands where it has been used since the 90s and more recently, has been exported to more than 100 centres all over the world. The initial work for it took a lot of hard work and coordination in terms of site preparation and logistics. It was a great team effort,” he says.

Izhan, who is aiming to break even in his business in three years, promoted it through social media as well as word of mouth.

As skiing and snowboarding are quite alien to most Malaysians, Izhan finds that creating awareness is also a huge part of handling the business. “It requires constant education as it is the first of its kind in Malaysia,” he points out.

“Most people when hearing about it would assume it’s a substitute for snow sports, which it is not. It is more to prepare better for a ski or snowboard holiday and can cater to all levels, including advanced, as the slope speed and incline can be varied depending on ability,” he explains.

Those interested in giving skiing a try will have to fork out RM159 each, inclusive of skiing suit, for an hour-long session. Each session can accommodate six people. The trainer-to-customer ratio is one to three.

For group packages, the costs are RM830 for a group of six, RM1,431 for 12, and RM2,366 for 24 people.

According to Izhan, First Traxx has gained traction since it started operations about two months ago, with about 400 registered skiers and snowboarders to date.

He believes the demand for the facility will grow and plans to operate more indoor skiing arenas in the country.

“We think there will be demand for another centre in Kuala Lumpur and perhaps, Penang or Johor Bahru,” he says.


Professional trainers

Part of First Traxx’s investment goes to human capital as training is its core business. With that, Izhan had to hire ski and snowboarding trainers from foreign countries as there are only a handful or no local trainers available.

Its head instructor, Rob Forbes, has vast experience in skiing. “The trainers are all internationally qualified and come from as near as Hong Kong and as far as Chile so it has been quite challenging to recruit them to Malaysia. The number of trainers is seasonal but would usually be three to six persons working in shifts,” Izhan says. 

This article first appeared in Focus Malaysia Issue 262.