Skip to main content

In the snow - What you need to know about winter sport in Wales

Lowri Howie is a few years away from making the Winter Olympics, but time flies when you’re skiing downhill.

The 11-year-old from Harlech in Gwynedd is one of Wales’ many talented young skiers and has been making a big impact with North Wales Snowsports Club as well as out in Europe, where she became the current U12 Welsh and English Alpine champion.

For the time being, though, - like millions of others - Lowri will be following the Winter Olympics on TV when the event begins in Beijing on February 4.

So, how do winter sports enthusiasts of any age get involved if they are inspired by the likes of medal favourites Mikaela Shiffrin and Marco Odermatt, or British snowboarder Charlotte Bankes?

Or you may be tempted to try recreational skiing at an older age than Lowri. After all, GB team member Dave Ryding has shown that anything is possible by winning a first World Cup goal medal recently, at the age of 35.

Lowrie Howie skiing down a dry ski slope
Lowrie Howie, the current U12 Welsh and English Alpine champion Credit: Stuart Brown

Skiing and snowboarding in Wales

Snowsport Cymru Wales – the governing body for skiing and snowboarding – are promoting a number of taster sessions for winter sports newbies to capture that enthusiasm driven by the Winter Olympics.

Held at the six dry slope facilities around Wales, the idea is to showcase the sport as accessible and affordable to all.

The centres are at Fairwater in Cardiff, Pontypool in Gwent, at Pembrey Country Park in Carmarthenshire, at Llangrannog in Cardigan Bay and at Llandudno in Gwynedd. There is also a small dry slope at Dan-yr-Ogof in the Swansea Valley.

“We are doing a number of initiatives around the Olympics that say, if you’re inspired by what you’ve seen at the Winter Olympics then get along to your dry slope,” says Snowsport Cymru Wales chief executive Robin Kellen.

“The centres will be putting on taster initiatives for people to try to ski and snowboard. It would cost around £10 to £15 per session, including instruction and all the equipment you need. That maybe compares to playing tennis or going to the cinema.

“There are children skiing every night of the week in Wales. We want to show people the opportunities that exist to ski recreationally or get involved more competitively.”

Llangrannog Ski centre, which is managed by the Urdd, includes an impressive freestyle park and the centre, on its own, teaches around 22,000 children a year how to ski.

There are also four adaptive ski clubs in Wales for people with disabilities and anyone looking for inspiration on that front need only to check out Wales’ Menna Fitzpatrick, who will defend her gold medal when she competes at the Winter Paralympics in March.

There are children skiing every night of the week in Wales. We want to show people the opportunities that exist to ski recreationally or get involved more competitively.
Snow Sport Cymru Wales

During lockdown, Snowsport Cymru Wales learned to be adaptive and developed National Slalom Awards. Like swimmers who raced each other against the clock in different pools, it allowed skiers to measure themselves against the best in the UK during a period when restrictions prohibited venue-based competition.

Traditionally, Wales has hosted national domestic championships on the dry slope at Llandudno and Pontypool, as well as Alpine championships out on the real white stuff.

This year, those championships will take place in Switzerland at the end of March incorporated within wider international competition.

It’s a structure that provides the stepping stone towards future European Cup, World Cup and Olympic participation.

There are regional academies in Wales that feed into a national squad, while the most promising youngsters get picked up by Great Britain and their own development programmes.

That is a route already being undertaken by three youngsters with links to Wales, who have gone down the pathway towards competing at the World Junior Championships and Youth Olympic Games.

Giselle Gorringe, 18, has already been tipped as a future Olympian by her coach, Chemmy Alcott, who competed at the Games in Sochi in 2014.

Ed Guigonnet is a 20-year-old with family links to Pembrokeshire who is training with the GB European Cup team and competed in the World Junior Championships in Bulgaria last season.

And then there’s Tom Butterworth, 19, a member of the GB Ski Team and West Wales Ski Club who learned to ski on the dry slope at Pembrey. Tom recently returned from Canada where he competed in the North American Cup series of international races.

Producing international snowboarders is a tougher task in Wales on artificial slopes, but Maisie Potter from Bangor has defied the odds to become a GB teammate of Bankes’s, specialising in boardercross.

“The outlook is very promising in Wales for anyone who is interested in snowsports,” adds Kellen.

“We have 10 ski clubs in Wales, usually based around the centres and we run participation schemes that can feed into development and competition for those who want it.”

The sport in Wales is not without big ambitions, either, including plans to build a 400m indoor snow run – what would be the largest in the UK – as part of a training centre and holiday resort in Merthyr.

“The sport is growing every year and we need to offer facilities to match that,” says Kellen.

Latest News

Partner Spotlight - ColegauCymru

For ColegauCymru, the challenge is to ensure students and staff in colleges across Wales have sufficient…

Read More

‘Citbag’ goes live: Schools to benefit from new online platform

A new online hub featuring hundreds of resources to help get children active is set to help teachers,…

Read More

The Disability Sport Wales festival giving thousands of opportunities to try para sport

Harrison Walsh is urging other disabled people to get involved with the Swansea Para Sport Festival…

Read More