Schoolchildren encouraged to take up skiing to help their wellbeing as part of national campaign

Lucy Aspden
Winter Paralympic gold medalist Menna Fitzpatrick is among other celebrities encouraging school children to get involved in skiing - PA

A national campaign is aiming to introduce 3,500 school children to skiing and snowboarding this month, during the annual National Schools Snowsport Week.

From June 24 to 30 over 75 schools across the country are expected to take part in the national campaign, now in its fourth year, which encourages young people to hit the slopes and learn to ski or snowboard in the UK.

National Schools Snowsport Week is organised by Snowsport England and since the campaign’s launch in 2015, 7,000 young people from over 150 schools have tried skiing or snowboarding for the first time.

During the week-long event, indoor snow slopes, such as SnowDome in Tamworth and Chill Factore in Manchester, as well as dry slopes such as Chatham Ski and Snowboard Centre and Stoke Ski Centre, are offering free and discounted sessions to children in primary and secondary school, as well as youth groups.

“For many young people this will be their first time on skis or snowboards and for others it will be an opportunity to try a different snow-sport discipline, for example freestyle, racing or ski/snowboard cross,” said Tim Fawke, CEO of Snowsport England.

National Schools Snowsports Week launched in 2015

Snowsport England, the national governing body for snow sports in England, is responsible for increasing participation in skiing and snowboarding, and National School Snowsports Week is part of this campaign, forming part of the national Go Ski Go Board initiative.

“We want to show that getting involved in snow sports is accessible for everyone, whatever their background, and it’s a fantastic opportunity for young people to make new friends, learn new skills and improve their physical and mental health and wellbeing,” said Fawke.

The governing body has also recently launched an initiative around mental health and snow sports, Snow More Stigma. The new focus comes almost a year after British snowboarder Ellie Soutter committed suicide on her 18th birthday – her father Tony later stated that he thought that the pressures of competing at the highest level contributed to her death.

“Snowsport England is committed to raising awareness of mental health through physical activity. We also recently launched our ‘Snow More Stigma’ mental health and wellbeing campaign to create awareness of mental health and wellbeing in snow sports,” said Fawke.

There are a number of famous faces supporting National Schools Snowsports Week, including multi-medal winning Winter Paralympians Menna Fitzpatrick and her guide Jen Kehoe.

“It is so important for young people to get involved in physical activity, and snow sports offer a great opportunity to have fun and challenge yourself,” said Kehoe, who was awarded an MBE alongside Fitzpatrick, after their stellar performance at the Winter Paralympics in Pyeongchang, Korea. They won four medals in alpine skiing, including gold in the slalom.

“I started skiing when I was five years old and now compete all over the world alongside Jen. It takes hard work, but we always have fun – I am really looking forward to inspiring the next generation of potential snow-sport champions,” said Fitzpatrick, who is visually imparied and only has five per cent of vision.

Winter Paralympians Menna Fitzpatrick and her guide Jen Kehoe are supporting the campaign Credit: PA/Rui Viera

Other ambassadors of the initiative include downhill racer Dave Ryding, Ski Sunday presenter Graham Bell and former Winter Olympian Ed Drake.

In an effort to encourage more schools to provide the opportunity to try skiing or snowboarding, and to visit the mountains, Halsbury Ski has partnered with the campaign. The Nottingham-based company specialises in organising ski trips to Europe, Canada and the USA for secondary schools. Halsbury was founded by former teacher Keith Sharkey over 30 years ago to help other teachers inspire young people through outdoor learning and new experiences.

“I am incredibly passionate about the benefits of skiing and snowboarding to our physical and mental wellbeing, and so we are always looking for ways to provide more exciting snow sports experiences for school groups,” said Sharkey.

Later this year, in October, Snowsports England will be running its 30 Days of Snowsports programme for the second year, providing another chance for people to try the sports for free at their local slope and access resources and information online.

National Schools Snowsports Week offers and discounts

Age restrictions and minimum group sizes apply to some activities

Skieasy, Chiswick

Free 30-minute beginner ski lesson

Chel-Ski, Fulham

Free 15-minute taster session for children in full-time education

Stoke Ski Centre, Stoke-On-Trent

Half price one-hour group ski lesson, £4.25 per child

50 per cent off two one-hour sessions, either two hours on the main slope, or one hour on the main slope and one hour tubing on the fun slope, £6.37 per person – add an extra hour for £8.50 per person

Two-hour race training sessions, £8 per person

SnowDome,Tamworth

Free one-hour ski or snowboard lesson

Ackers Adventure, Birmingham

Beginner ski or snowboard sessions, £5 per person

Chatham Ski + Snowboard Centre, Gillingham

Skier or snowboard taster sessions, £5.50 per person

Silksworth Sports Complex + Ski Slopes, Sunderland

Ski or snowboard taster sessions, £1.50 per person

Sandown Sports, Surrey

Half price taster sessions for school groups, £5.50 per person

Chill Factore, Manchester

A Chill Adventure Day, including snow park, climbing wall and a ski taster session, £25 per person

Ski and snowboard taster sessions and lift passes available at a fixed price, £13 per person for a taster, £8 per person per hour for a lift pass

Norfolk Snowsports Club, Norwich

One-hour ski or snowboard taster on the fun slope, £5 per person

Alpine Snowsports, Aldershot

One-hour group ski lessons for school and youth groups, £6 per person

Alpine Snowsports Centre, Southampton

Taster ski or snowboard sessions, £3 per person