“Coming back from Beijing was a real wake-up call”
With the new season just weeks away, we caught up with GB Snowsport Chief Executive, Vicky Gosling, to talk about the impact of last year’s record-breaking achievements, the lasting impact of the Beijing Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, and the reasons she’s so optimistic about the future of British skiing and snowboarding.
With the benefit of a few months’ reflection, how do you look back at last season and what the team achieved?
When I look back at last season, I just think it was incredible. If you think about it, we’ve now got twelve disciplines under the umbrella for GB Snowsport, and every single discipline medalled, at a minimum of World Cup level, which was amazing. Then you think about the fact it was a World Championships year and there we were winning World Championships medals in both the Olympic side of the house and the Paralympic side of the house. I think we’ve just taken ourselves to a completely different level, and this is British firsts. We’re changing history.
So, when I reflect on last season, I just think it was incredible and I’m so proud of what the team achieved, both the athletes and the staff behind it.
With that achievement, we can’t also help but think about what happened the year before. There was some disappointment from Beijing, that season had all its complications. Now you’ve had that time to reflect, what do you think was behind the turnaround in fortunes that we saw last year?
I think coming back from Beijing we had a real wake up call. It was incredibly difficult. To go into Beijing on the backdrop of a couple of years of covid along with the restrictions brought on by Brexit and how much time we could spend in Europe actually training, and it’s that time on task that’s really important for our athletes. So, coming back, it was like “what can we do differently?”.
We obviously restructured. We had to really focus in on how we exploit the opportunity now because there’s always great learnings when you fail. You get up, you look back, you reflect, and you learn from that. So, it was all about, “okay, where can we put our money to really ensure that we are achieving the best results that we possibly can?” We know we’re blessed with the talent, so it’s all about asking “how do we focus that talent on succeeding?”.
And I think we did that particularly well. The staff, looking at the sport science and medicine part of the house, that had a real focus this time around. Our Head Coach, Pat Sharples, really sharpened up our focus on where we could be; it was quite brutal, because we lost funding for Alpine, Cross-Country, and Para Nordic and that was hard.
We have still managed to move forward with those teams, but on the Freestyle side where the funding has gone into the World Class Programmes, that’s where we’re reenergised, refocused with a laser sharp focus on where the money’s being spent, and I think that’s reaped the rewards and the benefit.
It’s been a few months since the last World Cup. How have you been using the break in between seasons?
When you’re in the season, it’s frenetic. We’ve got a really small team and with a tiny team it’s difficult to get much downtime, however we really do try to ensure that the staff get a rest. Of course, there’s never any time out per se for the athletes because they train all year around, so where they’re training all year round it’s really important that the back office is supporting them, albeit on a reduced scale.
In a World Championship year, that scale is really high, but beyond that the scale comes down, so we look to use that time well. We look at what does the next season bring, we review the learnings from the previous season. In particular, where we’ve succeeded, how do we capitalise on that? And then how do we do things better, because there are always so many learnings in this environment.
People will know we have a lot of athletes out of continent this summer because of the conditions, and because of the challenges. How much of a challenge is that for you as the head of the organisation?
It’s really challenging. We have to find a balance. We’re looking at how do we be more sustainable and, at the same time, because of the impacts of climate change, we have to take responsibility and be accountable to do the right things. If we’re being honest and pragmatic about it, the impact of climate change in Europe and on the glaciers is significant, and that causes us to have to go further afield, which means budgeting to allow for that additional cost and get the athletes over there.
Clearly, the further afield the athletes are, especially with athletes heading out to the southern hemisphere, the more complications can arise. They’re further away, so if there’s any injuries the logistics are always slightly more challenging, and the costs go up, so we have to be thinking consistently about how we accommodate that.
Because we’re very small in terms of how we operate, we’re very agile, we’re very performance focused, and so everything goes on how do we get the additional bang for our buck with a performance lens on it?
What are your hopes for the season ahead?
We went from Beijing with a really disappointing Olympic result period – the Paralympics was a different story – into a season which we’ve all seen just reaped incredible rewards; the best season in British history. Now, what we really need to do is to consolidate upon those performances, learn from the success, and hopefully improve upon them. But consolidation is going to be really, really important.
Also, if you think about it, Milan-Cortina is practically around the corner. It’s 2026, but that time flows really, really quickly. What we also need to do is make sure we get the right tricks and skills and the right level of practice in the bag, so that when Milan-Cortina comes around we’re really ahead of the game. Going into Beijing it was a different story; we didn’t get that time on task to probably be as advanced as we wanted to be, so now’s time to consolidate on the previous season’s performance, move forward and, hopefully, do better.
The age profile in the squads is young. There are some really young athletes in those World Cup squads. Is that part of the strategy, are we looking for a younger team, or does it just happen that we’ve got this burgeoning young talent coming through at the moment?
It’s a good combination. The reality is we’ve had some fantastic talent in the past and we’ve seen that talent going through, but we were always very nervous that we needed to ensure we had strength in depth as well. We’re not just planning for Milan-Cortina, we’re planning for 2030 and beyond, and the cohort of athletes that are coming through now we know will be in the system, fingers crossed, ready to compete for 2030. So, we always have to look a minimum of eight years hence, otherwise we’ll just end up with no pipeline of talent. So, it’s a combination of seeking the talent out, the talent finding us, but also making sure we’re futureproofing our sport for years to come.
It’s extremely exciting – I don’t think we’ve been blessed with such strength in depth in terms of age demographics, so it’s a very exciting time for us.
Anything you’d like to say to fans going into the new season?
For us, it’s all about tuning in. The more eyeballs we have on our athletes, the better. We need to make sure the ways we engage are relevant, that it’s exciting, and it’s the content you want to see. We’re always looking for feedback and for ways to support the fanbase, because without the fans we would really struggle. It’s so important we have that fanbase; thank you for the support so far. Hopefully together we can grow that in the season to come.
“People think it’s a fun, easy lifestyle. It’s amazing, but it’s much harder than people really know”
In part two of our pre-season interview with GB Snowsport Head Coach, Pat Sharples, Pat discusses Milan-Cortina, squad chemistry, and the realities of athlete life
For part one of this interview, click here.
With summer training underway already, what are you as Head Coach looking for from the teams during pre-season? What are the main focuses and the things you really want to see?
We’ve had some incredibly good meetings with all our athletes, with all our coaches. Every athlete’s got their own individual plan, every single one’s very different. Everybody’s got their own goals and targets, and it’s looking at how can we make that happen? How can we help them achieve that through this period?
I think we’re in a really, really good place. That’s all we can ask for right now and from my side, I just want to make sure that we can give the coaches and the support team all the tools and everything they need to then go and support the different teams we have in GB Snowsport.
I feel like we’re in a good place right now. We want to continue on the back of last year. We’re not slowing down, not at all. We want to feel good about what training we’ve had through this summer, and go into the World Cup circuit full throttle, giving it everything.
It’s not a World Championships year, it’s not an Olympic or Paralympic year, but it’s still equally important to us. And it’s not all just about the Olympics and Paralympics for a lot of our athletes, a lot of them have got their own individual performance goals, whether it’s learning a new trick or progressing through the World Cup circuit, and we want to help and support them through all those goals they have.
We know we’ve got a big Freestyle contingent going over to Australia and New Zealand this summer, and a lot of them are going to be spending quite a lot of time together over the next few months. How important is this time in terms of building that team dynamic and the chemistry between the athletes? Is that a big part of it, or is that just something that happens naturally?
What’s really quite challenging, and, I think people who don’t live and breathe it with our athletes and teams might not understand, is it’s actually quite rare for the different disciplines and the athletes from those different disciplines to be training together, because everybody needs different types of facilities. A lot of them are competing at different times of the year, so it’s actually quite rare when you find that the teams can train together.
Freeski and Freestyle Snowboard, the Park & Pipe team, have always done everything very much side-by-side and that’s a huge positive. We need to continue doing that, and we maybe need to do even more of that. Athletes can bounce off each other, coaches can also be there to support each other.
We try to be smart with how we work and how we can bring our teams together. It’s exactly the same with Ski and Snowboard Cross. We do class the Park & Pipe and Ski & Snowboard Crosses as the same teams, however Moguls for example is very rare that you’d get them being in the same place as the others. But it does happen, and when it does, they’re so supportive of each other, they’ll go and meet and spend time together. Even at competitions they’ll go and watch each other compete and be there to support each other, which is great to see.
We’re only a small snowsport team, but we’re incredibly close and supportive of each other as well.
Let’s talk a bit about next season. By the end of it we’re going to be halfway to Milan-Cortina, which seems crazy seeing as it feels like Beijing’s only just finished. What are you looking for this season to know that we’re on the right track?
I think we will know straight away at the end of the season where we stand, and are we on track for Milan-Cortina. As mentioned before, everyone’s got their own different goals and targets throughout this year, but we do set milestone target events very much like we have with the World Championships, the Olympic Games, the Paralympics. Obviously, we want to perform well at every event that we go to, but we do like having a marker. We agree those with UK Sport as to which event it will be, and that’s what we’ll do again this year.
I think mainly for us in this year, a lot of it is performance goals. That’s our biggest target, more so than competition results. It has to be – we want to progress as much as we can through this winter because straight after next year, we’re going to be then looking at the Milan-Cortina Olympic and Paralympic qualification period over those two years leading up to the Games, so it’s going to come round incredibly quickly.
What would your message be to the teams as they continue in pre-season? What’s the last thing you’re saying to them before they head out to their camps?
Go out, enjoy, have fun, make the most of it. We always find when our athletes are going out there and having fun that’s when they’re progressing the most, they really are.
I think to people outside the sport it looks like an incredibly fun, easy lifestyle where it’s like “wow, they get to go off and play in the snow all year round” and, you know what, it is. It’s amazing, it really, really is. And everyone involved feels like that, however it’s incredibly hard work, much harder than I think a lot of people would ever really know. It’s mentally challenging, financially challenging, it can be stressful, you feel the pressure. Everybody understands that they’ve got to perform at these events as well; people say you’re only as good as your last event, and it is a lot of pressure for a lot of them.
Right now, we’re in a decent place, and I just want everybody to enjoy it and take it all in while they’re on this journey.
“There’s no better feeling than seeing athletes you’ve worked with from such a young age succeed”
Earlier this summer, we sat down with GB Snowsport Head Coach, Pat Sharples, to discuss last year, the season ahead, and pre-season plans for the GB Snowsport teams. In a wide-ranging interview, Pat touched on issues from the future of the British pathway to the impacts of climate change on world class skiing and snowboarding.
Catch up with the first part of Pat’s interview today and over on our Instagram channel, with part two coming on Monday.
What did last season mean to you personally with what everyone achieved and all the results we had?
Last season was a big one for us, it really was. The first year after Beijing 2022, it was a World Championships year, an incredibly important year. All of us wanted to have a good year right across the board, all of our disciplines Olympic and Para.
Summer training leading up to last year was quite challenging, with the glaciers closing and not having our regular locations where we could train, so we weren’t quite sure how it was going to pan out, but as we got into October and November, we were pretty pleased with what training we managed to get. The coaches were happy with where the athletes got to, and it ended up being one of the best winter seasons we’ve ever had on record and that’s across Olympic and Para.
We had some new, young athletes on the team competing at the World Championships for the first time, including Mia Brookes who ended up becoming the World Champion at her first ever World Championships in Slopestyle with an absolute great, groundbreaking performance. But there were plenty of other highlights, with Charlotte Bankes and Huw Nightingale in the Team Snowboard Cross event winning the gold there, and Zoe Atkin getting silver too [in Freeski Halfpipe].
Other major events too that really stuck out to me were the X Games in Aspen; that, to us, was like the Olympics before Freeski and Freestyle Snowboard were in the Olympics, and to do well in that event is still one of the big highlights for the athletes. So, Zoe Atkin taking the gold there in Halfpipe and Kirsty Muir getting two podiums, bronzes in Slopestyle and Big Air, that was just huge.
Para was equally good. We went into the season thinking that we were in a pretty good place with all our athletes, however we did have a few early season injuries which made it quite difficult to go in in the way we hoped we would. Some of our top athletes did great, like Menna Fitzpatrick along with her Guide, Katie Guest, and Neil Simpson with a new Guide in Rob Poth who joined Neil for the first time, them taking the gold medal in Super Giant Slalom was superb.
Another standout was Scott Meenagh. Coming back from what’s been a challenging year for the Para Nordic team after that was cut from the World Class Programme, Scott continued to work with the coaches to prepare for the World Championships where he took that incredible silver medal, which was an amazing thing to see from him.
And Para Snowboard, the whole team absolutely smashed it. James Barnes-Miller, I think it was five World Cup gold medals and the Crystal Globe, same for Ollie Hill, many podiums as well as the Crystal Globe, and Nina Sparks with two medals at the World Championships: just an absolute dream of a year for all those guys.
There’s a lot more athletes as well who had personal bests; Makayla Gerken Schofield taking her first medal at a World Cup in Moguls, also a sixth place in the World Championships, and Ollie Davies a [World Cup] silver medal in Ski Cross which was the first medal we’ve ever had in that discipline, so right across the board the guys just absolutely smashed it.
You’ve seen a lot of those athletes come through, really from being kids to the world class athletes they are now. What’s that like personally, seeing that journey for some of those younger athletes who are really breaking through now at the highest level?
For me, and I think all of the other coaches a well, there’s no better feeling than seeing athletes you’ve worked with from such a young age, and worked so incredibly hard, succeed. And it’s not just them, it’s their families and everybody else who’s sacrificed so much to pursue this dream. When you see them making it on the big stage and performing at the highest level against the best in the world, it is the greatest feeling. And we had a lot of those moments this year – there was a lot.
It’s equally as good for everyone around that’s been a part of it to see all that hard work really paying off. Obviously mainly for the athletes, because that’s what they’re trying to do at the end of the day.
There’s quite a few new names and quite a few young athletes on this year’s squads. What’s your sense of some of those new characters coming into the squad? How exciting is that for you from a coaching perspective?
This year we’re going to be seeing some new athletes coming through into the main teams across all the different disciplines. Some really exciting young talent coming through. It’s great to see, because obviously our big focus in this cycle is the Milan-Cortina Games, but we’re looking beyond that. We want to continue doing this and being able to support our young talent coming through, and we have some amazing young athletes coming through now.
It’s not been easy within our pathway – it never has. Coming from a nation with no snow and with the challenges that we’re finding in Europe with the inconsistency, especially in the summer, being able to access glaciers like we did, it is getting tougher, it really is; there’s no denying that. So, when we do find talent, we need to do everything we can to support them and bring them into that main team and support them in the best way we can for the future.
The big challenge for us, and it’s something we’re going to have to work with Snowsport England, Scotland, and Wales on, is to continue to keep fighting to create better opportunities for people getting into snowsport in the UK so they get these opportunities as well. Like I said, it’s getting tougher, it’s not getting easier.
I think the ski and snowboard industry as it is, it’s not where it was ten years ago, especially in Freestyle. When Freeskiing and Freestyle Snowboarding really sort of came on the scene there was a big boom, a lot of companies and brands were investing into events and competitions and into young, upcoming athletes, and that’s not really there anymore or not to the level that it was, so there’s less opportunities. But we can’t give up that fight, we’ve got to keep pushing forward and keep inspiring more people to get involved in snowsport, and create stronger pathways so we’re seeing more kids coming through at the higher level.
You’re talking about a couple of things there that I think are quite important to get your perspective on. The first one is, we can’t escape it, climate change. The change in European conditions, we’ve got and a lot of people seeing this interview will know, a lot of our athletes this season in the southern hemisphere for pre-season. How much is the change in the climate around us having an impact on the plans that you and the other coaches are able to put in place, and the experience of athletes that are in training and competition?
This year at the end of the winter, when we were doing our programme and athlete reviews, and from our experiences from last year, we knew our plans were going to have to be very different to what they’ve ever been before. We’ve almost had to rule out relying on accessing any of the European glaciers, mainly because we can’t rely on the facilities being at the level we need because the glaciers are deteriorating incredibly fast and they’re not able to build the features we need; some of the glaciers are not opening at all anymore as well. So, this year, for the majority of our teams we agreed our plan a would be to go to the southern hemisphere and South America to access world class training facilities in winter conditions.
Obviously for us from Great Britain, one of our biggest challenges is we’re constantly travelling. We don’t have the mountains or the training facilities on our doorstep. We’re not like the swimming team or the cycling team where you can go 15 minutes from where you live and access world class training. We’ve never had that, but it’s getting tougher because we’re having to travel further away. However, saying that, it’s a part of what we do. We’re lucky we’re in a good position thanks to the support of UK Sport that help us and back us in doing this that we can travel to these places the other side of the world to continue to get training.
We also know that our summer period is the most important training time that we have all year round. We are away the majority of the winter, however the World Cup competition schedules are pretty full on, so you don’t get lots of opportunities for solid training blocks. You’re normally on a tour from one competition to the next, and by the end of March, April, you’re back into training again, so this summer training period is really crucial for all our athletes.
You also talked about the future of talent, the pathway, and the experiences of young people coming through the British system. And at the moment we all know we’re in the middle of a cost of living crisis, conditions are hard for people, discretionary spending is down, people’s decisions on what they’re going to do are changing. Today, recording this, it’s the first day of the state school summer holidays in the UK and I imagine a lot of parents are going to be making slightly different decisions about what to do with their kids than in previous years. How much does that worry of the expenditure involved in snowsport an issue when we think about the next generation of British skiers and snowboarders?
It’s a huge issue. Skiing or snowboarding is not cheap – it’s not. The dry slopes do a very, very good job making it affordable for anybody to go out there and have those taster lessons to get involved. To maintain that, to continue it weekly and monthly, it gets incredibly expensive. And the indoor snow centres are even more so. The biggest challenge then is there’s only so much we can do at these facilities and then you’ve got to be going abroad to train at the higher level, and I think that’s something else that’s making it tougher in our pathway as well, for getting people to be involved, because a lot of people just can’t afford to actually do that.
It’s something we’re not going to give in on. We still want to show and inspire kids to get involved in snowsports. I got involved through my local dry ski centre and that changed my life. I certainly wasn’t looking then to become an Olympic athlete or a coach or anything; I just did it for the fun of it and it’s ended up becoming a big part, well, pretty much my life and my career and everything else. You just never know where it’s going to take you.
We’re still really keen to get people into snowsport, giving people the opportunity that we’ve all had.
After record breaking season, GB Snowsport will benefit from almost £200k in increased investment
GB Snowsport have welcomed UK Sport’s decision to invest an additional £173,000 into GB Snowsport programmes for the Milan-Cortina cycle as part of a wider increase of £2.4m into winter Olympic and Paralympic sport.
The bulk of the new investment will go towards the Paralympic programme following a season of remarkable results including Scott Meenagh’s history-making Para Nordic World Championships silver medal last season, while £41,000 has been set aside to support GB Snowsport’s Olympic disciplines in meeting higher costs for summer training programmes as climate conditions make European training camps a significant logistical challenge.
Commenting on news of the increased investment, GB Snowsport Chief Executive Vicky Gosling, said:
“It has been a record-breaking season at GB Snowsport, with the Olympic and Paralympic teams winning more medals than ever before, including one in every discipline we represent.
“This has taken incredible skill and resilience from the team and the additional UK Sport funding will be crucial as we ramp up our preparations for Milan-Cortina. We want to give our athletes, like Scott Meenagh, every chance of success and are grateful to the National Lottery for their continued support and investment in such a special group of individuals.”
Dr Kate Baker, Director of Performance at UK Sport, said:
“[The] announcement of additional financial support for five of our Olympic and Paralympic winter sports recognises the incredible potential of our current crop of athletes.
“They delivered several extraordinary sporting moments last season, and we are excited to see them back in action later this year as we continue to pursue our ambition to become an ever-greater force in Winter Olympic and Paralympic sport.
“Of course, we wouldn’t be able to continue to invest in these talented young athletes without the incredible support we continue to receive from National Lottery players who power Olympic and Paralympic sport in this country.”
Advertising industry leader Jason Cobbold will succeed Rory Tapner as Chair of GB Snowsport when the latter formally steps down from his post at the organisation’s 2023 AGM.
Jason, who leads creative agency BMB as Chief Executive, in a role he has held since 2018, will serve an initial four-year term and will join the GB Snowsport board with immediate effect. His appointment will then go to the membership for official ratification at the AGM in October 2023, alongside the earlier appointments of Independent Non-Executive Directors Greg Bennett and Michael Oesterlin.
A fixture of the advertising, branding, and marketing sector for the past three decades, Jason has extensive experience of working alongside major sport industry brands, and currently sits as a member of the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) Commercial Leadership Committee. His contributions to the IPA over the years have spanned the development of commercial and client best practice and a number of key industry-wide training programmes.
An avid skier and keen marathon runner, Jason has also been a long-time supporter of GB Snowsport providing advice and counsel through BMB on numerous occasions in recent years.
As Chair, Jason will lead the GB Snowsport board as it works to support the organisation’s continued growth and progress, building upon the most successful season in the country’s history of elite snowsport and strengthening relationships with key stakeholders, both within and beyond the snowsport sector.
Commenting on his appointment, Jason Cobbold said:
“This is a moment of enormous potential for snowsport in Great Britain. I’m thrilled to be working with the board and the team at GB Snowsport, with UK Sport, the BOA, the BPA, FIS, and all our partners to translate this into success on the World, Olympic, and Paralympic stage. As a lifelong fan of all sport on snow, this is a wonderful role to be taking on. I would like to thank the outgoing Chair, Rory Tapner, for his leadership, and I look forward to the next chapter in our story.”
Vicky Gosling, GB Snowsport Chief Executive, said:
“Jason is a terrific appointment for our organisation and our sport, and I’m hugely looking forward to working with him over the course of his term. Anyone who speaks with Jason will immediately know his passion for snowsport, and his experience of business growth and stakeholder management will be hugely valuable to us as we move forward. I’d also like to pay tribute to Rory Tapner, who has been such a passionate and committed leader for GB Snowsport for the whole of his tenure.”
Rory tapner, outgoing GB Snowsport Chair, said:
“It has been a huge privilege to chair GB Snowsport over the past 8 years, and see the progression of our world class athletes and coaches across all our disciplines, including our para disciplines. In handing the reins to Jason Cobbold I feel confident he is exactly the right candidate to lead the organisation to greater heights over the coming years.”
Dame Katherine Grainger, Chair of UK Sport, added:
“I’d like to congratulate Jason on his appointment as the new Chair of GB Snowsport. It’s an exciting time to be joining the Olympic and Paralympic family, with Milan-Cortina 2026 fast approaching, and winter athletes having delivered a very successful season. We all want to see Great Britain become an ever-greater force in Winter Olympic and Paralympic sport, so I look forward to working with Jason and the wider leadership team at GB Snowsport to build on the momentum already in place.”
Jason Cobbold Biography
Jason currently holds the role of CEO at advertising agency, BMB. He began there in 2018, and has led the growth and transformation of this well-known UK agency over the last four and a half years. His successes include assignments with household brands like Samsung, Nike, Innocent and Allianz, as well as a host of fast growth businesses. His agency’s work is widely recognised in the industry, and includes a number of international Cannes Lions awards for impact and creativity.
Before BMB, Jason’s career covered spells at some of the world’s most famous creative businesses such as BMP, HHCL and Bartle Bogle Hegarty. He has consulted and developed work with clients across a range of sectors from sport to tech and household goods, including companies such as Nike, Renault, Diageo, Unilever and Vodafone. More recently, Jason set up the London consultancy business, Redscout, where he built a successful strategy and innovation offering for the UK market with clients like Pernod Ricard, Allbirds, PepsiCo, and Warner Brothers.
Jason is a long-standing contributor to the advertising industry through the IPA (Institute of Practitioners in Advertising). He is a member of IPA Commercial Leadership Committee, leading the publication and PR for various reports on industry best practice. He has also led a number of industry wide training and mentorship programmes.
Beyond the IPA, Jason plays a role advising growth tech businesses with one foot in the advertising space.
Jason is an avid fan of snow sports. He learnt to ski on the dry slopes of Rossendale, became a guide in France, fell in love with the ski movies of Greg Stump, and even had a stint racing for Bourgoin Ski Club in France (without much success, it must be said). His passion for the sport has extended through life and he now supports his two children, Mia and Jack, in their love of the sport. When he isn’t in the Alps, Jason is a keen player of the game of “Go” (he was a former junior champion in the UK) and is a lifelong supporter of Arsenal FC, and Islington Boxing Club.
Applications for FIS Licences for the 2023/24 season are now open, with discounted rates available until the end of July
Athletes intending to compete in FIS events for the 2023/24 season can apply for their relevant licence from today, with GB Snowsport offering a discounted application cost up to 31 July 2023.
Licences, which are available for purchase until 30 April 2024 and are valid to 30 June 2024, are available via the GB Snowsport Licence Portal, with a step-by-step overview of the application process available here for new and returning applicants.
All athletes competing at FIS events must hold a valid FIS licence. For more information on the 2023/24 season Licence application process, visit www.gbsnowsport.com/fis-licences
As UK Anti-Doping’s Clean Sport Week campaign continues, we take a look at the support provided to British skiers and snowboarders to train and compete clean
GB Snowsport Programme Manager, Alex Wilson, has led our Anti-Doping and Clean Sport education work for four seasons. Here, she explains the benefits to athletes, the benefits of working with UK Anti-Doping, and the teamwork that sits at the heart of our approach.
GBS: How does our work on Anti-Doping and Clean Sport education actually work in practice?
AW: From an education standpoint, it’s always been slightly tricky that we don’t have a centralised programme. With the amount of travel our athletes do, there’s no way that we can sit everyone down for the education programme and take them through it in person. When the world started having the ‘Zoom challenge’ a couple of years back, we were thinking “okay, well now everyone’s in the same boat!”.
Everything we do stems from the strategy we’ve devised to give us as many ‘touch points’ with the teams as we can. That way, the understanding and education gets organically fed in, rather than being a case of ‘oh, this is when you need to think about it’. Probably the biggest success is getting the principles woven into athletes’ day-to-day, so that it becomes just another part of the things they know to do.
GBS: What are the benefits to the athletes of clean sport and all the tools around it?
AW: First and foremost, they know their achievements are their own. It sounds obvious to say it, but anything our athletes do, any success they have, they know they’ve been 100% safe and clean.
Beyond that, one of the things that I think has worked really well is developing an approach that’s really tailored to snowsport athletes. When I speak to some of the team who’ve been on the circuit for a few years and would have received education on quite a few occasions, one thing they usually say is how much more aligned it feels to their experiences as athletes. That’s great for them, but it’s also a really helpful for us in keeping them engaged.
GBS: How well understood do you think Clean Sport is for athletes coming on to the World Class programme?
AW: We made the decision not to just target the highest level of athletes with our education approach, but to work with partners to help filter it down through the development period as well. We want there to be that baseline of understanding and education already there before an athlete ever joins a GB Snowsport programme.
What that means is that you’ve really got a whole generation of athletes that have at least a degree of understanding of their responsibilities, and the importance of clean sport.
GBS: Clean Sport Week has got a big focus on the Teamwork in Clean Sport. What does that mean to you?
AW: It’s absolutely crucial. It’s almost a cliché to say it, but it’s true that everyone has a duty to protect clean sport.
Inside our NGB, we’ve really benefited from our board buying into the process and seeing themselves as a part of the team on clean sport work. A number of board members have completed board specific UKAD training, and that’s really helped the top-down understanding, as well as setting a really positive example for the rest of the organisation.
With the athletes themselves, we also do a lot of work with their coaches and support teams. The Coach Clean resources from UKAD are a mandatory requirement for anyone coaching on the World Class Programme, and speaking to coaches in the field they’re often the first port of call for athlete questions.
We also get to work really closely with UKAD themselves, which is a fantastic help in the work we do on clean sport. That sense of teamwork, whether it’s within our staff team, with coaches and athletes, or with people out with the athletes, is such a foundational principle in getting this right.
UK Anti-Doping’s Clean Sport Week campaign runs until 26 May. Find out more at www.ukad.org.uk/clean-sport-week-2023
GB Snowsport proud to support 10-year strategy designed to inspire participation in snowsport at every level
Snowsport England, the Home Nations National Governing Body for Snowsport in England, have today launched a new ten-year strategy, ‘Inspiring Snowsport’. The strategy, which has secured the backing of national funding agency Sport England, celebrates the snowsport community, the passionate people within it, and gives a voice to the entire English snowsport ecosystem.
The strategic plan is underpinned by a long-term vision and looks to identify the key challenges and opportunities ahead for snowsport across England. The strategy’s commitment to collaboration between everyone in the sport focuses on three key strands of Leadership, Participation, and Talent.
As a key partner of GB Snowsport’s work, we are delighted to support Snowsport England in the delivery of their new strategy and its ambitious aims for snowsport in England.
To find out more about the full detail of the Inspiring Snowsport strategy, visit https://www.snowsportengland.org.uk/
GB Snowsport Chief Executive, Vicky Gosling, looks back at the post-Beijing decisions that underpinned our most successful season of all time
A year ago, I spent a lot of time thinking and talking about lessons learned.
What happened in Beijing that caused our Olympic ambitions to fall short? Why was the potential in our team not turning into consistently winning results on the snow? Were other nations better equipped to deal with challenges that affected all of us? How could we keep building momentum around a sport that doesn’t benefit from the same cultural footprint of so many of our summer sport siblings?
Time will tell if the answers we developed over a long, difficult summer last year were the right ones, but the early indications are encouraging: the best season in British snowsport history; 50 World Cup, World Championships and X Games podiums; a podium in every single discipline under the GB Snowsport banner; four Crystal Globes; two World Championship titles.
It’s worth saying, these aren’t the fruits of some grand reset. Last season wasn’t a case of tearing things up and starting again, just as this season won’t – can’t – be a case of sitting back on our laurels.
With small fractions of a difference, these are the results we could have seen last year. But we didn’t, and perhaps it was facing down that challenge that gave us the push to reach the point we have today.
Going back to last summer, it wasn’t just us asking questions. We faced a lot of scrutiny over whether we were truly on a winning track. And I think all of us – our staff, our athletes, our coaches – understood where those questions were coming from. But even then, we’ve always been confident in the ability of British skiers and snowboards to make a real mark on the world stage.
Ironically, perhaps the only place British snowsport performances weren’t being seriously questioned was among other nations; I can remember really distinctly the surprise among some of the more traditional snowsport countries about the criticisms after Beijing. In some ways, that’s been true this season as well; there’s probably been more surprise back home than there has been around the world at just how strong the team has been this year.
One of the most exciting things about that strength is just how much visibility it’s received. Whether it’s the regular support of Ski Sunday and Eurosport, the international excitement around the medals won by Mia Brookes, Charlotte Bankes, Huw Nightingale, and Zoe Atkin at the Freestyle World Championships, or the astonishing week in January where Dave Ryding, Mia Brookes, Makayla Gerken Schofield, Zoe Atkin, Kirsty Muir, Menna Fitzpatrick, Neil Simpson, and Charlotte Bankes all took World Cup and X Games medals, British excellence has been there in front of millions of people the world over. If there was ever an exciting moment to be a part of British skiing and snowboarding, this is it, and we owe a debt of gratitude to the partners and sponsors who’ve believed in what we’re building, as well as to all of the fans and supporters who’ve backed us and our athletes at every step of the way.
These are difficult times for people right across the country. As a sport – particularly as a sport funded by the generosity of National Lottery players – we have a responsibility to give something back, and right now I think what we can give back the most is a bit of feel-good for the nation. And if you want a feel-good story for Britain, what’s better than the unfancied little guy going toe-to-toe with the world’s most established snowsport nations?
Going into this summer, we’re in a more settled place than we were a year ago. The decisions we took at the end of last season were tough, but they were a necessary step in the journey we’re on. Our focus remains on improving in every area that we can, and building even more on the strength-in-depth that exists across British skiing and snowboarding.
We’re not going to stop learning lessons, but I’m glad that we’re learning them a higher point on the mountain.