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Extreme Snow Sports in the U.K.

Extreme sports - snowboard, skiing, ice climbing

Snow sports are without question some of the most extreme sports on offer. Snowboarding, Skiing, Snowkiting and Ice Climbing all have highly adrenaline inducing content. With each, the pursuit of the thrill is tinged with personal danger.  It was revealed recently that one in ten of the thousands of Winter Olympic athletes who competed at the 2010 event in Vancouver, Canada, were injured. Snowboarding and Skiing were both near the top of the table when it came to injuries sustained. Obviously, a high rate of injury does not in itself make a sport extreme, but it is a good indicator. Snowboarding for example, combines high speeds with difficult moves and challenging jumps. Snowboarders going at full throttle will need to exhibit a huge degree of control over the various forces effecting them. It is a highly skilled and highly thrilling sport, with touches and flurries similar to skateboarding.

So no one can deny that snow sports offer something significant to extreme sports enthusiasts. The only problem for the British extreme sport lover is the lack of suitable terrain in the U.K.. Britain is sadly lacking large, snow topped mountain ranges and as such, most Brits need to head to France or Switzerland in order to get a fix. This also has a detrimental impact on the U.K.’s performance at international championships involving extreme snow sports. In 2010, Britain finished the Winter Olympic with a depressing medal tally, putting us at the bottom of the table, only besting Estonia and Kazakhstan. Britain simply doesn’t have a snow sports culture and as a result, we don’t turn out many champions in the area.  That said, it’s not all doom and gloom. The U.K. currently harbors two very serious contenders in freestyle skiing – Andrew Longley and Murray Buchan, who have been catching the attention of snow sports professionals across Europe. As well as this, we have some pretty accomplished snowboarders as well. James Carr, Tom Guilmard, Chris Chatt, Dom Harington and Matt Leigh are all considered shining lights of the sport.

So what is the future of extreme snow sports in the U.K.? The Scotsman Newspaper recently reported that a one million pound grant had been made to ICE Factor, an ice climbing wall operator based in Kinlochleven. The centre will house a state of the art ice wall for enthusiast of the sport to scale, providing Britain’s future ice climbing champions with a world class domestic facility to hone their skills. Whilst it might be true that the U.K. does not have the natural terrain for snow sports, we do have the funds, skills and capacity to recreate the conditions inside.

This September sees the 10th anniversary of SNO!zone, the U.K.’s leading indoor snow sports facility. The Milton Keynes attraction offers enthusiasts real snow on real slopes. Each slope is covered with an impressive 1700 tonnes of snow, ensuring the experience is as authentic as possible. Since opening their doors, ten years a go, SNO!Zone has welcomed nearly two million adrenaline junkies to its slopes and has taught over a million people to ski or snowboard. The site is up to Olympic standards and provides an excellent facility for Britain’s next generation of snow sports talent. So despite the obvious challenges, Britain’s not beat when it comes to snow sports. If we can’t go to the mountains, the mountains will come to us.

** Photograph by Bettina Braun **

Tags: Andrew Longley, Chris Chatt, Dom Harington, Ice Climbing, ICE Factor, James Carr, Matt Leigh, Milton Keynes, Murray Buchan, Scotland, Skiing, SNO!zone, snow sports, Snowboarding, Snowkiting, Tom Guilmard, U.K.

2 Responses to " Extreme Snow Sports in the U.K. "

  1. esupdjot says:

    Awesome blog. Thanks a lot.

  2. Neil Brandt says:

    There’s too little snow in the UK to compete with France or Germany. It’s a shame, but the U.K. will always be shit at snow sports.

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