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Be Active Wales Fund - Pontypool Ski Racing Club

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Sport often works as a tool to lift people out of the social inequalities all too prevalent in Wales. 

But that impact could well have been lost as the financial effects of the initial Covid-19 lockdown pushed many sports clubs across Wales to the brink.

Pontypool Ski Racing Club try to fulfil exactly that role with people given a platform to try a sport many only see on TV as youngsters.

Some have gone on from there to compete at the top of the sport. A handful have even progressed to star at international level, having been given their first taste of the sport on the artificial slope at Pontypool Park.

Just as well that the Be Active Wales Fund – administered by Sport Wales - was able to assist the ski race club with a grant of £840 to ensure those opportunities continue to exist.

The club are grateful to National Lottery and Welsh Government for making it all possible through the fund and chairperson Sara Jones believes the money has been instrumental in enabling the club to keep session prices at £13.

“We were hopeful that the fund could ensure that we could keep the cost low for next season because we appreciate many of our members may be in a difficult financial situation,” says Sara. 

“Also, because of the guidance from the national governing body, we needed to cap numbers in terms of the number of people allowed on the slope, so as to keep it Covid secure. The grant from the fund will enable us to spread those sessions out. 

“It means that people don’t miss out because of the cap on numbers. That was our core drive for funding. 

“The other reason we needed help was to invest in PPE equipment, hand sanitisers and safety cones to be able to run safe sessions.

“It’s also allowed us to buy some poles for slalom training, but we need to give them a period of 72 hours after being used to ensure we aren’t transmitting infection.” 

The ski slope at Pontypool Park is one of the largest in the UK, while the club has 42 active members with an age range from six years to 60.

Not every member will go on to compete at a high level, but the club has had remarkable success in nurturing some of the best skiing talents in the country. 

They include Lauren Bloom, who is a member of the Great Britain children’s team, Ffion Lewis and Joe Compton, who are both in the Wales squad, and Ryan Bloom, who is a FIS racer on the international circuit. 

The club can also take credit for a number of children who have made the Welsh academy which is run by Snowsport Wales, the governing body. The youngest is just eight years old.

After lockdown arrived, Sara admits she was uncertain how many skiers would immediately look to return to the club.

“We weren’t sure what demand was going to be like as we weren’t sure if people would be put off coming back because of the virus,” she adds.

“But actually, the opposite has happened. Demand is huge at the moment. We’ve had to make investments in things like an online booking system. 

“One change is that we no longer take cash. Previously, our members would pay cash on the evening.”

As well as offering ski sessions for those progressing their skills, the club is also a focus for those looking to compete at the highest level.

Pontypool Ski Racing work closely with Torfaen Ski Club to create a pathway for the beginner to progress towards representative competition, with the best looking for Wales and Great Britain honours.

“That’s the objective of our club,” says Sara.  “If you want to join it’s because you want to compete.” 

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