Jack Clare and David Gazet investigate the winter sports revival at Cardiff Ski and Snowboarding Centre.
The Winter Olympics might be over but the enthusiasm of the intrepid skiers flocking to Cardiff’s only dry ski slope hints at an enduring legacy.
It might not look like much, but the Ski and Snowboarding Centre in Fairwater was one of the first dry slopes in Britain, and the 100m slope is still in use today.
Managed by Snowsport Cymru, the body responsible for selecting and training the Welsh National Ski Squad, the council-owned site is the base for six local clubs.
Alpine Ski instructor Michael Mackenzie works at the centre. He says there is a growing trend among young people to take up skiing and snowboarding thanks to this year’s high profile events: “We’re chock-a-block since the Olympics started, we have had more people wanting to learn to ski and board.
“We have had an increase in the number of youngsters wanting to learn to ski abroad as well, snowboarding too, it’s very popular at the minute,” he said.
Michael, 47, has been skiing since 1987 and has been a qualified instructor for 14 years. Despite teaching people to ski in Austria and Switzerland and working part time in Cardiff, he still manages to find time for his day job with Newport Council.
He said: “I was probably skiing before you were born! I just love the winter and love the snow. I was skiing recreationally for a number of years and then when I was on holiday I became more involved and took my instruction.”
With 90 per cent of people attending sessions being complete beginners, Michael and the other instructors have their work cut out training budding skiers.
But there is a steep learning curve at first. “Putting the skis and boots together is one of the hardest things for them, they all find they can’t work our skis.
“Skiing is more popular because it’s easier to pick up but once you have mastered the basics of snowboarding it’s easier to progress quickly,” he said.
Fitness is also important, with skiers and snowboarders using muscles rarely put under stress in traditional sports like football or rugby.
But despite the demands, once you have the basic skills the rewards come soon afterwards. “When you’re coming down a mountain with the scenery around you, people who say there’s no God, they’re lying. There’s nothing like it.”
With the planned construction of a £16m International Sports Village in Cardiff Bay, winter sports enthusiasts may soon get to ski on a 250m slope of real snow.
If the project does become reality the old dry slope will probably close down, But for now the Fairwater Ski and Snowboarding Centre is the place to be for Cardiff’s skiers and snowboarders.
Michael certainly encourages anyone who hasn’t tried the sport to give it a go. “It’s the most fun you can ever have. You can take all the drugs you want but you won’t replicate this,” he said.