Take a look back at the greatest season in British snowsport history as experienced by the team behind the team
A year on from the highs and lows of the 2021/22 season and the Beijing Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, British skiing and snowboarding has found itself at its highest point in decades.
- 50 World Cup, World Championships, and X Games podiums.
- Three World Championship titles.
- One X Games title.
- Four Crystal Globes.
- One Europa Cup Overall Title.
- A podium in every single discipline.
To relive the greatest season in British snowsport history, we talked to some of the team behind the team to find out what was happening behind the scenes as Brits started making history on the snow.
Vicky Gosling – Chief Executive – That was it; the full House
It’s been a fantastic season against the backdrop of a really disappointing Beijing where we thought we were heading there with great potential, despite the challenges of covid and two years of restricted training. This year was about bouncing back from that with laser focus. We made the adjustments we needed to do after the funding decisions last summer, and when you look now at the fact we’ve got 50 podiums, four Crystal Globes, and all the World Championships medals across both the Olympic and Paralympic disciplines, I really couldn’t ask for more.
I’ve seen a real team spirit, and the team behind the team have just been incredible. We’re a really tight ship, we’re very small, but every single person here is critical to the success. Through my experience in the military I’ve seen working in small teams, working in big teams, and actually I’d say the team we’ve got here are absolutely world class. We’ve almost been to hell and back for what we stand for, and the results speak for themselves.
Some of my most favourite moments? I think of Ollie Davies’ Ski Cross World Cup medal; I was getting out of a taxi and almost dropped my coffee when I got the notification through, because that was it – the full house. Twelve teams in our one family, and every single one of them has gone above any beyond. I also think of just watching the camaraderie and teamwork at play on the slopes between Huw and Charlotte in the Snowboard Cross at the World Championships. We’ve got a huge team ethos here, where we all work to build those bonds between us on and off the slopes, but when you see it happening on the slope – that race, and Huw giving it everything, and Charlotte coming back off the disappointment of not getting a medal in the solo event, putting that all behind her and stepping up to the plate again. It’s everything we believe in, and she and Huw put everything into that. It’s probably one of the most inspiring events out of all of them. And, of course, having a sixteen-year-old – a one-in-a-million sixteen-year-old! – come and actually be a British World Champion.
People forget this wasn’t what was expected of Britain a few years back. Now we’ve had James Woods, we’ve had Charlotte Bankes and now Charlotte and Huw together, and we’ve got Mia Brookes – plus everything we’ve achieved on the Paralympic side, whether it’s Neil Simpson, or Menna Fitzpatrick, or James Barnes-Miller, Ollie Hill, and Nina Sparks doing amazingly.
But the absolute best bit? We’ve still got so much more to come.
Kearnan Myall – Head of Sport Sciences – I found myself jumping up and down like I was back on the rugby field
Reflecting on the season, I feel a lot of pride; pride at what the athletes achieved, first and foremost, but also proud of how every member of staff pulled together to support them in achieving their goals. Last summer, in the wake of a disappointing Beijing Olympics, we were forced to make a lot of changes which, combined with some wider uncertainties, left us on the back foot heading into the season. It took an enormous amount of dedication from the coaches, physios, and staff behind the scenes to get us back on track. Going above and beyond became routine and, thankfully, paid dividends.
I’ve been fortunate enough to spend most of my life in professional sport, so I’ve grown accustomed to riding the highs and lows. In the early part of the season, I was pleasantly surprised to see some good results coming in but knew not to get carried away. The season is long, and we knew the big challenges that we had to overcome. But then, the medals just kept coming, and coming…and coming.
It’s impossible to pick out a single highlight, but some notable results for me were Makayla’s podium and GB’s first Moguls World Cup medal since 2020, Ollie Davies’ Ski Cross silver and, of course, Mia’s World Championships gold. The most special one for me personally, though, was Scott Meenagh’s Para Nordic World Championships silver. After the loss of funding, Scott committed himself to the cause, and showed admirable resilience to secure a first ever British medal in the event. I was walking through Hampstead Heath in London when the result came in and found myself involuntarily jumping up and down like I was back on the rugby field practicing lineouts! We now have a great platform to build on this success. We’ve had time to rebuild our sports science and medicine team and put new initiatives and ways of working in place, all with the aim of providing the athletes with effective performance support. If we can keep them physically and mentally fit, our athletes have proven they can not only compete with but be the best in the world.
Pat Sharples – Head Coach – The biggest success we’ve seen is the progression from our athletes
The last 12 months have probably been some of the most challenging times we’ve had, certainly since I’ve worked for GBS, but also some of our best for many different reasons.
After Beijing and the 2022 winter season, we had chance to totally reset our team programs, performance plans and goals and targets. Without the distractions of Covid and all the challenges that brought including lack of training opportunities, cancelled or re-scheduled events, we’ve managed to have the first really smooth winter for probably three years now.
This is by far the most successful year GBS has ever had with regards to results, and the first time we’ve seen athletes podium at all major events including World Championships, World Cups and X Games in every program we run. As the Head Coach, it’s not just that which excites me though – how well so many of our up-and-coming athletes have done on the Europa Cup circuits and at the European Youth Olympic festival has been really exciting.
However, I feel the biggest success is the progression we’ve seen from some of our athletes this year. This is all down to the hard work of our athletes, coaches, support staff and all the team behind the scenes at GBS not forgetting many of the athletes’ family & friends who all contribute to supporting them in their goals. Everyone has gone above and beyond to make this happen and I personally couldn’t be prouder of everyone involved.
Never before was it so important that we hit our targets and to show and prove we’re on course as we move forwards in this Olympic and Paralympic cycle of Milan-Cortina. I really feel like we’ve made that point, and we’re excited to focus on the next chapter; this summer and autumn are hugely important with regards to training and our long-term goals.
The season might be over now, but the challenges aren’t. Summer training is rapidly changing in Europe now; last year we saw European glaciers close much earlier than expected, and some not even opening at all, and there’s a real prospect that will be the case this summer too. However, we will always continue to find ways of keeping progressing and moving forward.
Maddy Hunter – Senior Programme Manager – Everyone looked at one another like: ‘wow, that’s game over’
We got out to Bakuriani [for the Freestyle World Championships] early in the morning, after an overnight flight and a drive through the snow in Georgia, which was quite wild, without our bags. Over the next 48 hours we had more people coming in, and it didn’t take long to realise that nobody had them, so we had maybe three days of everyone scrambling around, just borrowing other people’s stuff, trying to work out what people could use to train, what they could wear every day. It wasn’t the easiest start!
After the experience of Beijing, where everything was so intense and so controlled, we wanted to try and make Bakuriani as stress free and environment as possible, and I think that really worked. We could give everyone a bit of autonomy, but at the same time there was lots of time together, lots of opportunities for everyone to get to know one another a bit better. Stuff like that really makes for a good experience for the team, I think.
On the day of the Snowboard Slopestyle Finals, we were all able to be there on the hill supporting her; the atmosphere was amazing. She qualified in second, and we were all thinking: that’s amazing. Then, when she landed the cab 1440, everyone looked at one another like: “wow, that’s game over”. It was such a cool feeling for everyone there.
When it came to the Team Snowboard Cross event, I remember watching Huw and Charlotte’s heats and they absolutely smashed it. It sounds cheesy, but for me I’m just happy for the guys when they do well, and it was so nice to see them go out and get that win together.
The Championships really were a high point of the season for me. After the strangeness of the Beijing experience, having everyone together and being able to do our thing, and then to come out with all those amazing results was really special.
Chris Scott – Head of External Relations – It became apparent something really special was happening
There was just over a week – from 22-30 January – where it became apparent something really special was happening. Behind the scenes we’d been speaking a lot about how well things had been going – the Moguls squad were going great guns, Andrew Musgrave had had a brilliant start to the season in Cross Country, Charlotte Bankes had got over a tricky first bit of the season to get back to her regular race winning form, and the Para Snowboard team were already looking really dominant – but then over the course of that week, it was like a wave breaking.
I was out at the park with my daughter when Dave and Mia both took World Cup podiums on the same day – briefing media, while pushing a two-year-old on the swings will stick in my mind for a while! Then the Para Alpine guys had a brilliant week, before Scott Meenagh’s result [World Championships silver medal] came through on the Friday and suddenly anything felt possible. That weekend, we had Makayla’s podium in Val St. Come, Zoe and Kirsty taking X Games by storm, and then Menna and Neil both taking more Para Alpine podiums.
I spoke to Pat [Sharples] on the Monday, and probably for the first time in the job, felt genuinely emotional about it all. We’d all had a really tough 12 months, and then everything just clicked. After that, everything felt inevitable. Of course we’d win World Championships titles. Of course we’d hit a podium in every discipline. Of course Charlotte and Huw would take the Team SBX World Champs title. Of course we’d end up with a season like this.
Anna & Ben Jeannesson – Parents of Mateo and Tom Jeannesson, and Alpe d’Huez Moguls Slope Coordinator and Coach (Ben) – Being involved in the World Cup coordination prevents us from actually watching the comps
In November every year, as soon as the first snowflakes fall, I get out and start waxing my cross-country skis while my husband Ben checks all the other skiing gear is ready to go. Then, Ben steps into his role as Moguls slope coordinator and coach at Alpe d’Huez, and training begins for Tom and Mateo on home soil.
Early December means Ben shapes the moguls course for the Alpe d’Huez World Cup by jumping into snow groomers at night and shoveling by day. Being involved in the WC coordination prevents us parents from actually watching the comps – just so much to do!
On WC day 2022, fabulous weather and an incredible atmosphere were topped off by awesome results for the GB Moguls team! Ben’s work didn’t stop at the end of the comp as many national teams stayed and trained at Alpe d’Huez, but it was super fun with all the teams training together… For us, the highlight of the season came before the World Championships, when 7 nations came to train on the slope – a truly motivating and exciting atmosphere!
Back from the World Championships, Mateo worked with Ben and Tom devising a training programme for the upcoming Europa Cups in Alpe d’Huez and Switzerland. It really paid off with victory for Mateo and 4th place for Tom. The season ended on a high note, alongside Jeff Fairbairn, the new Moguls coach, with a podium in the tightly contested World Junior Championships in Italy. Time for a well-deserved surfing holiday!