Snowsport Cymru Wales is the home nation governing body for snowsports in Wales. Our role is to increase and create opportunities for sustained participation, and to support talented athletes along a pathway to joining the GBS programmes. We are a small cog in a much bigger machine, but we like to think we play an important role in developing the sport in the UK as a whole.
These past few months have been a strange time for everyone, not just in sport. In late January 2020 we returned to the UK from from Champéry, Switzerland after delivering what we believe was our best Welsh Alpine Championships to date. We have been running our champs in Champéry for fifteen 15 years and have formed strong ties with the resort. With record numbers of competitors and some great performances from our Welsh athletes across the age categories, we had built a platform to enable us to take further steps forward – then the dreaded virus took control!
Like most sports, Snowsport activities in Wales have come to a rapid grinding halt through this summer and we are now focussed on taking steps to rebuild and to understand how we plan to reinstate so many of the things we kind of took for granted.
So, in this period of crisis, it is a little odd to reflect upon our successes and potential. But without understanding what you do well how on earth can you expect to repeat it?
For a small national governing body we believe that Welsh snowsports has a number of achievements we should be really proud of. We have some great artificial slopes, some amazing athletes (across disciplines and ages), really strong clubs, including some very proactive adaptive ski clubs and an effective domestic competition programme. In this blog we want to focus on one of our successes and highlight potential we want to capitalise on.
Success = Girl Power! We have excellent numbers of girls participating in snowsports. In the past few years we have seen more girls than boys involved in our national schools events and in our clubs in Wales.
Opportunity = Interest for increased participation in snowsports in Wales. Recent Welsh Government surveys have shown really promising latent demand for Snowsport by school children Wales.
How did we get to the position where girls outnumbered boys at our national championships?
A significant factor that helped increase participation in girls was the impact women in Snowsports were having in raising the profile of the sport in Wales.
- Role models – We’ve had some excellent Welsh female snowsport role models in the past few years. Maisie Potter and Menna Fitzpatrick have both been instrumental in showing our young female participants what can be achieved with a whole load of hard work and determination.
Maisie has fought through so many challenges since committing to a full time boardercross programme after leaving school. Her season ending foot injury prior to the 2018 Olympics (having partially made qualification criteria) would have been career ending for many – not for Maisie! Coming back to full time training and competition this season and gaining her (and Wales’) first Europa Cup podium was amazing.
And then there’s the sensation of Menna Fitzpatrick, Great Britain’s most successful Winter Paralympian. Menna’s performances were followed by so many in Wales, cheering on her every turn, though those of us who knew Menna were confident she could pull out the results she deserved. She’d already proven herself by winning the overall VI World Cup the season before. Wales is proud to have played a small part in supporting Menna on her way in her early years as a competitor.
The value of having effective female role models in our sport cannot be understated. They have inspired hundreds of girls to get involved with our sport, encouraging so many to take the next steps in showing what they could also achieve.
Thank you Maisie & Menna.
- Opportunity – Recent surveys commissioned by Welsh Government and Sport Wales have demonstrated significant interest and participation from schoolchildren in Wales for snowsports. The School Sport Survey reported that 17% of school children participated in snowsports in 2018, and most significantly another 12% said they would like to participate in snowsports.
Whilst these numbers don’t look that great they measure up really strongly compared to many traditional sports and prove that we really have an opportunity that could make a huge impact to our sport.
In response to the results from this survey Snowsport Cymru Wales has teamed up with our partner in Schools Snowsports, Select Schools Skiing and snowsports charity Skiers Trust of Great Britain to launch a Wales wide initiative this autumn to create opportunities for school children to try out snowsports at our artificial slopes. Our target is to reach out to 2,500 new participants, getting them onto the slopes and supporting pathway options for their continued involvement in the sport.
Our aim is to help make the sport more accessible and to change perceptions ensuring the sport is able to grow even further as we look into the next generation of snowsports in Wales.
Looking out of lockdown, we are all going to need to work hard to regain the momentum for our sport and we will be doing everything in our powers to ensure we
BUILD – BACK – BETTER