Snow Sports Holidays For All
Winter sports used to mean skiing but the range of activities are wider than ever. Added to which more than a million Brits now take an annual snow sports holiday. We take a look at the fun to be had on the slopes…
There was a time when skiing was viewed as an exclusive pastime with a short season often involving travel and expense. But we’ve become much more adventurous as a country when it comes to recreation. Fitness challenge events are thriving and, when it comes to winter sports, good facilities, improved coaching and organised clubs have been a game changer.
“There are lots of opportunities to try winter sports in the UK – probably more than you think,” says Luke Williams, Head of Campaigns at Snowsport England.
“You can ski, snowboard or roller ski (the dry land version of cross-country skiing). And you can do these at Scottish ski resorts (of which there are five), on dry ski slopes, indoor ‘real’ snow centres and, for roller skiing, on any flat open tarmac areas. Skiing might be easier to master than snowboarding initially, but once you’ve got the basics of snowboarding, the learning curve is less steep,” adds Luke, who is also keen to stress the many opportunities to just “have a go”.
“All the winter sports are great fun and many slopes, snow centres and clubs offer taster sessions or open days. We run a campaign called Go Ski Go Board that enables you to find your nearest slope or club and see the opportunities for beginners as well as the taster sessions available.”
Aside from the excitement and adrenalin rush, winter sports offer other benefits. They’re great for improving overall body fitness, and both skiing and snowboarding can be enjoyed by anyone regardless of age. In addition, they often appeal to people who don’t always get on with traditional sports and are looking for something different.
“Winter can be a dark and depressing time so getting out and being active in fresh air is a fantastic mood enhancer,” says Luke.
“Snow sports aren’t necessarily expensive. Skiing or snowboarding at one of the UK’s many indoor or dry slopes is affordable, with a session costing just a few pounds and with equipment often included in the price. These sessions are also great for youngsters or as part of a family activity. It’s advisable to start off by having a lesson so you don’t pick up any bad habits from the beginning and can enjoy things safely.”
Winter sports have something of an addictive appeal and for those who want to get serious and compete there are opportunities available, as Luke explains: “There’s nothing stopping you taking your skiing or snowboarding to the next level and getting involved competitively. You never know, you could be the next British Olympic superstar! The best starting point is getting involved with your local ski or snowboard club. They’ll have a pathway to help you go from a recreational skier or snowboarder to a ski racer or freestyle star.”
The UK has a strong adaptive snow sports scene with many opportunities to get on the snow and try skiing and snowboarding if you have a disability, whether it’s physical, cognitive, visual and audio impairment, amputation or other additional needs.
Many of the UK’s indoor or dry slopes offer adaptive lessons or have local disability ski groups. There are also plenty of opportunities to head overseas with many groups and charities organising trips for the disabled. Adapting both equipment and lessons and providing accessible support systems allows people with a wide range of disabilities to experience the freedom of snow sports.
The best starting point is visiting the Disability Snowsport UK website which outlines all the opportunities in the UK and has details of overseas trips.
On Your Doorstep
The Bowles Rocks Trust is an outdoor education charity and people development centre near Tunbridge Wells on the site of an impressive natural south-facing sandstone outcrop.
Amongst extensive facilities are two ski slopes for skiing, snowboarding and sledging both of which have tow lifts and in-slope lubrication to make the experience as authentic as possible. Every year people visit Bowles to learn to ski before a trip to the mountains with friends, family or school.
“We teach hundreds of people every winter so that when they arrive in their resort they’re able to get out and about immediately, seeing much more of the mountains than they would if they spent the whole week on the nursery slopes picking up the basics,” said Head of Recreation Nick Stoddart.
“We have a range of courses from intensive one-day sessions to private lessons for small groups of friends, families or individuals, and three-part weekend and after-school courses for children and teenagers as well as skiing courses during school holidays.
“Add these to the sessions we offer schools, sledging, skiing and snowboarding birthday parties for kids and the wide range of coaching and practice sessions for skiers and boarders who want to warm-up and practise their skills and it’s easy to see why we’re so well placed to help thousands of people every year enjoy the excitement, exhilaration and camaraderie of winter sports.”