Like the idea of taking your class on a ski trip, but don't think you'd get enough students signed up to make a trip to France or Austria viable? Or perhaps you teach at a junior school and are reluctant to take younger children on an overnight trip. Why not take them to one of the excellent ski centres right here in the UK. With the majority of schools just a short coach trip from their nearest dry slope or indoor snow dome, and the cost of a beginner lesson comparable to that of a swimming lesson, there really is nothing stopping you!
There are probably more places to take your school group skiing right here in the UK than you realised! Spread throughout England, Wales and Scotland there are 60 artificial dry slopes and a handful of indoor real snow centres to choose from. Some are fairly basic, but perfectly suitable for school children to get their first taste of the sport, and to gain confidence on skis. Others, like the indoor centres and domes, give a real flavour of what it is like to enjoy snowsports in the mountains.
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Although downhill skiing is the sport that comes to mind when most people think about sporting activities on snow, snowsports actually covers quite a number of different disciplines. The popularity boom enjoyed by Snowboarding has led to the development of slopestyle skiing and freeride snowboarding; both featuring in the Winter X games and helping to boost interest in the sport for younger children. With so much choice available, there are plenty of ways in which children can get involved in snowsports and find something that they enjoy.
If you listen to seasoned skiers they sometimes moan about the quality of dry slopes. The heavier you are, the more difficult it is to carve on the plastic surface of a dry ski slope. For beginners, and children especially, dry ski slopes are a great way to learn the basic techniques, and gaining experience on a dry slope will certainly give you confidence when you come to ski on snow for the first time. Most slopes are made of the honeycomb pattern Dendix material, though some are now introducing Permasnow technology, so the dry slope experience just keeps on improving.
Real Snow Centres
There are currently five English indoor snow domes and one in Scotland. For a school group booking they cost slightly more than an artificial slope, but the experience is much closer to skiing in the Alps. Booking a group lesson is the best way to experience these snow domes as overcrowding will be less of an issue - they are very popular places!
We are excited to be partnering with Snowsport England and Snowsport Scotland as part of the Go Ski Go Board initiative. Since 2013, the project has been getting more people, especially young people, participating in snowsports here in the UK. Although the initiative is suitable for everyone, school groups are specifically catered for.
As we have already seen above, there are a good number of ski centres here in the UK, both indoor snowdomes and artificial dry slopes. These venues are all taking part in Go Ski Go Board by offering great value packages comprising of everything you need to give snowsports a try (including equipment, clothing hire and lessons). For school groups, the recommended format is a series of six, hour long lessons, designed to give students a one off taster of skiing as a new sport, or the basic skills that will benefit them if they are due to head off on an overseas ski trip. But the course is completely flexible and can tie in with your PE curriculum teaching, as well as your time constraints.
Following the completion of the six hours of lessons, the project encourages people to make contact with their nearest ski club and stay involved with the sport. For school groups, there is even a pathway which provides access to further lessons, information about ski school trips overseas (that’s us!) and even school skiing competitions.
Find out more: www.goskigoboard.org.uk/schools
For people in the UK, skiing started off as an exclusive or luxury sport, accessible to the privileged few who could afford to travel to and holiday in the mountains. During the 1970s and 1980s, the growth of the package holiday industry made getting to ski resorts much easier and more affordable. The ski resorts had to develop to accommodate the growth in tourists; creating far more hotel beds, increasing the lift capacity and generally making the sport much more accessible to the average person. Skiing now became something within the reach of school groups, and almost all UK secondary schools ran a yearly trip to the European Alps.
The early 1990s economic crash, with high interest rates and unemployment, meant that far fewer people could afford to send their children skiing, and the number of schools who offered a ski trip declined dramatically. Since the turn of the century, despite plenty of schools taking their students on overseas trips each year, skiing has never recovered to the halcyon days of the 70s and 80s.
In European countries with high mountains or reliable winter snowfall, skiing and snowsports are very accessible even from a young age. Children grow up taking part in snowsports as frequently as we do with football or tennis. Despite our lack of snow, the facilities do exist and are both accessible and cost effective, meaning there is no reason why junior school children in the UK should not be introduced to skiing and snowsports.