Levelling the slope with Active Nation

by Ed Scott

Active Nation was set up with one mission - to make sport and exercise accessible to everyone. Across the UK they deliver physical activity programmes in schools, parks, leisure centres, and online to thousands of people every week. 

Alongside swimming, cycling, and football, snowsports are some of Active Nation’s most popular activities. The charity runs sessions year-round from their Alpine Snowsports slopes in Southampton and Aldershot. They cater to complete beginners and experienced skiers and snowboarders alike.

We spoke with Clive Marshall, who helps manage both Alpine Snowsports venues, to find out more about the growing popularity of artificial ski slopes.

clive marshall alpine snowsports
Clive Marshall, Alpine Snowsports

Snowsports for all

“We want to make snowsports inclusive. That’s what it’s all about,” Clive told us. “We’re trying to break barriers down and show people that these are activities for everybody. From 4 years of age up to 90 years of age, anybody can take part.” 

Clive and his team run 1-hour Discovery Sessions to encourage beginners to give skiing and snowboarding a try.

People can come along, have a go at skiing or snowboarding for an hour, and get a feel for whether they like it or not. If they decide to then book onto one of our courses, we’ll knock off the cost of the Discovery Session.”

Both Alpine Snowsports venues also run regular activities for disabled athletes. Using custom equipment, specialist instructors and accessible activities, they can cater to a broad range of needs. 

“It’s great to watch the sheer enjoyment these sessions provide! The groups look forward to coming every week and it’s fantastic to see their individual achievements."

alpine snowsports donutting

Ain't no mountain

We asked Clive, a lifelong skiing enthusiast, about the opportunities artificial ski slopes present for young athletes. 

“From a learning point of view, a dry ski slope is absolutely the ideal environment," he said. "A six-hour course here is the equivalent of probably a day or two on the nursery slopes in the mountains."

“The local Aldershot Ski Race Club is really a testament to the level you can reach on a dry ski slope. A lot of those racers started out in our junior ski sessions as complete beginners with us. They kept it going and ended up getting to the level they’re at now, winning national medals.”

On the snowboarding front, Billy Morgan, who won a bronze medal at the Winter Olympics, first started snowboarding at the Alpine Snowsports Southampton centre. 

“He still pops in every now and again - when he got back from the Olympics one of the first places that he came to with his medal was the ski slope!”

billy morgan olympic bronze snowboarding
Olympic medallist Billy Morgan at Alpine Snowsports Southampton

Looking ahead

Like so many businesses, Clive and Active Nation faced many difficulties during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“The last year has put a bit of a damper on things, but now we’ve got lots of new beginners coming in, which is fantastic. People were locked up for the best part of a year, and they’ve been keen to get going again. As an outdoor venue we can provide that for people.”

In the last few years, Alpine Snowsports have added a third activity to their offering which has proved hugely popular - donutting.

“The great thing about donutting is you don’t have to have any experience,” says Clive. “It’s an all-inclusive sport, in that sense. And it gets the blood pumping - do an hour of donutting, and you’ve had a workout!”

donutting tubing ski slope

Whether they’re fostering the next generation of world-class talent or showing people a good time donutting, it’s clear that Clive and his team are deeply passionate about what they do. 

“There’s not many people that can say they’ve been in the same job for 35 years,” he reflected.  “The turnover of staff within our venues is some of the lowest that you would see in the leisure industry, and it’s quite simply because they love doing what they’re doing.”

“Our mission is to persuade everyone to get active outdoors - that is our number one goal. The enjoyment people get out of our activities is the reward for us.”

learn to ski kids uk

If you’re interested in giving skiing, snowboarding, or donutting a try, why not visit one of Active Nation’s Alpine Snowsports venues? Both the Southampton and Aldershot centres feature state-of-the-art facilities and world-class instructors to help get you started on the slopes. 

Looking for your next adventure? Take a look at the eola marketplace to find out what’s happening near you, and be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to stay up-to-date with all the latest outdoors activities.

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