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British skiing seeks end to downhill trajectory

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Matt Slater | 19:23 UK time, Monday, 21 March 2011

Picture the scene: it is 1978 and Britain's best skiers, their coaches and assorted well-wishers, were assembling for the most important date in the calendar, the British National Ski Championships in Val d'Isere.

Imagine the embarrassment: the British ambassador to France was on his way to dish out the prizes but the national federation had no money to stage the races.

Enter the benefactor: John Ritblat, in town on his annual skiing holiday, gets wind of the impending crisis, digs into the pockets of his salopettes and pulls out the £3,000 (more than £13,000 in today's money) needed to stage the races.

Plus ca change: Ritblat, now Sir John and a giant of the British property industry, is getting ready for next week's championships in Meribel, the 33rd in a row he has supported financially, morally and vocally.

For a sport that is often criticised for being elitist, British skiing is never far from a cash crisis. The good news is Ritblat, his family and their business contacts are never too far away either.

Thirteen months ago, with the Winter Olympics only weeks off, the British Ski and Snowboard Federation (BSSF) went bust.

Athletes, coaches and support staff found themselves without transport as the bank repossessed their vehicles, travel plans for Vancouver were thrown into confusion and, with no governing body to liaise with the International Ski Federation (FIS), Team GB's racers were faced with the prospect of being barred from the Games.

Chemmy Alcott at the Vancouver Winter Olympics, 2010

Chemmy Alcott has been a consistent performer at the highest level for GB in recent years

Thankfully, that humiliation was avoided. But only just. The much-maligned British Olympic Association sprang into action, forming an emergency governing body to ensure the likes of Chemmy Alcott and Zoe Gillings would be accredited in Vancouver. And Ritblat, British skiing's oldest friend, put his hand in his pocket once more to help with the costs.

"Skiing is immensely important to this country's image abroad," Ritblat explained. "Just look at the amount of TV coverage it gets across Europe, where it is a national sport in countries like Austria and Switzerland.

"The French, Italians and Scandinavians take it very seriously too and it is almost unique among sports in that it effectively has its own Olympics. It is a vital shop window."

Shop windows are something of a specialty for the 75-year-old Ritblat, who spent 36 years at the helm of British Land, the owners of Sheffield's Meadowhall shopping centre, 69 retail parks, 99 superstores and 10 department stores.

His time at the company is the stuff of corporate legend and his generosity has provided books for the British Library, paintings for the Wallace Collection and performances at the Royal Opera House. But it is hurtling down mountains on planks that really gets him going.

"Ever since (World War II) there's been a shocking lack of attention to skiing in this country and I don't understand why," Ritblat continued.

"It is a superb sport for young people as it produces exceptional characters and pits man against mountain. The courage these people display is really quite remarkable.

"If you fund these youngsters properly, Great Britain could be terrific at the Winter Olympics. But if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys."

He was on a roll now and my shorthand was struggling to keep up. We raced through a potted history of well-heeled Brits practically inventing the sport in the 19th century to the modern era where millions of more middling sorts (people like me) save for that week on the slopes on a package deal.

It was a thrilling ride and when we were finished I was almost convinced that "by 2018 there should be no limit to our aspirations".

Alain Baxter lost his medal after unluckily failing a drugs test in 2002

But the fact remains Britain will always struggle to win traditional skiing races (snowboarding and newer skiing formats are a different matter) and it is because the sport at the highest level is elitist. Not in the "let's winter in Wengen, darling" sense but simply because our champions start from the disadvantage of coming from a relatively flat and temperate country.

Yes, I know there are mountains in Scotland (I have slid down a few over the years) but they are not the Alps. It is the national sport in Austria for a reason and that reason is cold, craggy and covered in ski lifts.

That is not to say we should not try, though, which is why Ritblat's passion is so refreshing.

What skiing has cried out for, however, is a way of harnessing that have-a-go attitude and supporting it with the kind of attention-to-detail and focus other members of the British Olympic family have demonstrated in recent years.

The man charged with that responsibility is David Edwards, a former naval officer who spent two decades in the financial services sector before taking on an interim chief executive role at Llanelli Scarlets. A solid job there brought him to the attention of Britain's Olympic chiefs and he was given the task of rebuilding at BSS.

Edwards' task will not be easy, though. BSSF's slide into insolvency was embarrassing (and irritating for anybody owed money by the organisation) but it did not leave much lasting damage to the sport.

Far more debilitating was what happened a month before when UK Sport, the agency that funds Team GB's preparations, applied the cold logic of its "no compromise" approach to winter sports as well as summer ones.

This meant Edwards would not have access to the more than £600,000 of public money his BSSF predecessors had in the four years before Vancouver. UK Sport almost tripled its total funding for winter sports in the build-up to Sochi 2014 but that largesse has gone exclusively to governing bodies with real medal potential: curling, skeleton bob, speed skating and women's bobsleigh.

It is difficult to criticise UK Sport for this decision because there is only so much public money to go around and the agency's decisions on how to spend it have been vindicated by 15 years of improving performances across the Olympic spectrum.

But it is also difficult to avoid feelings of sympathy for Edwards, Ritblat and every aspiring British skier and snowboarder. The UK Sport model rewards success and ignores failure: breaking out of the vicious circle into the virtuous one is a devilishly difficult trick, particularly when the Austrian ski team's budget is 20m euros a year.

That said there is a "no compromise" spirit at BSS now and a new sponsor (a property company called Delancey, which is run by Sir John's son Jamie) on board too. And as skeleton bob has so amply demonstrated, the start of something special is only a bronze medal away.

As well as my blogs, you can follow me when I'm out and about at http://twitter.com/bbc_matt

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Great article.
    It's disappointing that the UK's Winter Olympic hopefuls have to pay their own way into the sports, whereas summer athletes are given plenty of cash to refine skills in sports where money isn't as important. Running for example is a cheap sport to learn compared to Downhill Skiing but running receives more money. Understandably our location is the reason that we focus on Summer sports, and rightly so, even if the Winter games are more exciting and showcase traditional Olympic, amateur values better.

  • Comment number 2.

    LONGEST. BLOG. EVER.

  • Comment number 3.

    BUT, the upside of our lack of success/participation in downhill advents is our more recent prominence in other snowsports related events. James 'woodsy' Woods just claimed the bronze medal at Euro X games Ski Slopestyle, a huge achievement when you look at all the american, swedish, norwegian, french etc. competitors out there! The British Freeski scene is growing exponentially, this mis one area where we could have further success in the future

  • Comment number 4.

    'But it is also difficult to avoid feelings of sympathy for Edwards, Ritblat and every aspiring British skier and snowboarder. The UK Sport model rewards success and ignores failure: breaking out of the vicious circle into the virtuous one is a devilishly difficult trick, particularly when the Austrian ski team's budget is 20m euros a year.'

    UK Sport adopted the model for a reason, its proven itself to work. It originally did give out money regardless of the results and that model was a huge failure. If you give money to skiing you might as well give it to all British sports teams that fail to get success.

    The Austria ski team's budget is a bit of a silly comparison. It's their national sport and their proven medal winners with a huge number of young skiers who only have to walk out of their door to find a slope.

    Our big olympic sports are summer ones and our equivalent is athletics, swimming, cycling and rowing. I imagine that the Austrian cycling team bemoans how much money their British equivalents get, they also probably complain about the skiing team. Thats life, you fund what you are good at.

  • Comment number 5.

    The interesting quote from Sir John is that he says "there's been a shocking lack of attention to skiing in this country and I don't understand why,". surely he can see that the reason is that skiing for the average person is so very expensive. if you compare it to almost every other sport, it is over priced, out of reach and inaccessible, for instance to play football ou can do it with a £1 football and 2 jumpers for goals! If you take it further, a proper kit and boots will set you back £50 or so, likewise rugby, even cricket which requires more kit, still isn't expensive in comparison and can be played virtually anywhere. In order to start skiing, you need to be in the alps (or similar). that will cost at least £500 just for a week, once you get hooked, then you'll want 3 or 4 trips per year to real snow, plus visits to a local indoor slope, so you're forking out £2000 or more, then you buy all the kit, another £500. I'm afraid that is why skiing will never garner much enthusiasm amongst average people. It is a shame as i love skiing and have recently got back into it, but, until you live on the slopes or only a drive away, it will never be a mainstream sport.

  • Comment number 6.

    I've just come back from Val Cenis and when you are on the slopes you realise how big a participation sport that skiing is by the British from simply ear-wigging to people talking. A huge number of Brits ski every year! Even more so, when I go to Les Trois Vallee I bump into people who I know from back in the UK, it is that crowded with Brits!
    TV coverage of ski racing by the BBC has been much better this year. particularly with the red button, but I still think there is room for more. With more TV coverage will come better funding, better performances, better awareness in the UK and further TV coverage.
    Rock on Chemmy! Heres hoping your leg is mending well and looking forward to watching you race next year.

  • Comment number 7.

    U14628062

    “The Austria ski team's budget is a bit of a silly comparison. It's their national sport and their proven medal winners with a huge number of young skiers who only have to walk out of their door to find a slope.

    Our big olympic sports are summer ones and our equivalent is athletics, swimming, cycling and rowing. I imagine that the Austrian cycling team bemoans how much money their British equivalents get, they also probably complain about the skiing team. Thats life, you fund what you are good at.”

    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Spot on.

    Is it really of any worry that GB is not well represented in skiing? The money that you would have to throw at raising skiings profile and bringing young sports people into participating, and be good enough to Compete and medal, would far outweigh even that of the money the Austrians annually fund their sport, and with considerable less success.

    Unfortunately, funding in this country doesn’t seem to motivate our young sports people. Just look at our tennis players. They get wild cards into Wimbledon every year. Lose in their first match, pick up their first round match prize money (Over 10k) and then continue losing for the rest of the year. The only time you hear of them again is 12 months later.

  • Comment number 8.

    Coming form inside the sport it is far easier to sypathise because you know and feel for the people who work day and night to compete in the hardest uphill battle, they are not being given a chance by their own government/UK Sport when we have athletes with the potential and ability to make it at the highest level. What is rediculous is when you look at the funding that has been thrown at equally obscure sports for the summer Olympics just because we are hosting them. The likes of baseball, basketball, volleyball and table tennis - I dont rememebr the last time we achieved Olympic success in any of these events (yes baseball is new, but the others still count). These sports are being given a lot of money when they are never going to succeed, will this money have been well spent when our make shift teams compete next summer, could some of it have been used to maintain funding for other Winter Sports that are just asking for a chance to be able to compete?

  • Comment number 9.

    Skiing isn't just alpine!
    No mention of cross country or the various freestyle disciplines (or biathlon for that matter who have their own federation).
    (Not that BBC's Ski Sunday covers these sports - the last series ended before either the Nordic World Champs or Biathlon World Champs had even taken place. Thankfully there is always Eurosport.)

    As someone who has got hooked on watching cross country and biathlon over the last couple of winters I thought I ought to point out that we do have some good young prospects in cross country skiing.
    Scotland's Andrew Musgrave (21 yrs old) came 6th in the 15k at the world under 23's and got to the knock out stages of sprints (i.e. top 30) at the world champs this year and is often talked of as a possible medal prospect.

    Cross country skiers in Britain do much of their training using roller skis which is what the Scandinavians and alpine country skiers use when their snow has gone. In addition to this there are a few indoor cross country skiing facilities. We have downhill ones in Britain which would appear to have slopes that are far too short for elite use. However, indoor cross country facilities are used by elite athletes. At the Oberhof ski hall in east Germany the facility is open to the public for half the day and for ski teams the rest of the day. When I was there with the London Region Nordic Ski Club last year (who roller ski through the summer in London) skiers from the German and Czech ski teams were also training there.

    U14628062 wrote:
    "Our big olympic sports are summer ones and our equivalent is athletics, swimming, cycling and rowing. I imagine that the Austrian cycling team bemoans how much money their British equivalents get, they also probably complain about the skiing team. Thats life, you fund what you are good at."
    We used to be no good at cycling and then we had some British success (e.g. Chris Boardman) and then more funding followed and now there's even a British funded pro tour team.
    No reason why that couldn't be repeated in a winter sport.

    There are plenty of British millionaires who have thrown money into loss making football clubs for very little return.
    Think what a fraction of that money could do for an underfunded Olympic sport?

    “We don’t have enough snow” should not be used as an excuse to not fund winter sports.

    Success is a choice.

  • Comment number 10.

    Another very good blog Matt thanks. An to those who think this is the lonest blog, you must of never read Matt's Pompey blogs!

    About Skiing, it seems from what was said is that we should only be good at skiing in order to look good in other countries eyes. I have been mocked by foreigners about many sports, but our lack of skiing success isnt one of them!

    Our country isn't really built to develop skiiers unless we suddenly get 200 snow domes like in milton keynes! But if you look at the initial costs of equipment and participation, particualy the costs of consistantly going abroad as there are no big ski slopes here.

    I'd rather the BOA go the whole hog either way and either fund for elite juniors/seniors go regualry compete abroad or not bother at all.

    I wouldn't miss it

  • Comment number 11.

    Matt, As per usual we are only looking at the downhill type of skiing. Surely the cross country and biathlon skiing are far more obtainable for us. As the seasons have either come or are coming to a close it would be far better to try and progress in these events. Most of their training is done on either bikes or roller blades so I am sure that if money was pumped into them we would start to do better.

    For the first time in ages a Britain won points in the Biathlon. She is called Amanda Lightfoot. Hopefully she will slowly progress as the men are trying to do so in the event.

    I haven't heard how the young cross country skiers have been doing so I would like to dispute the person who said the BBC coverage of skiing is getting better. Only if you like to see some downhill or super G etc.

    Also the BBC website is pretty poor giving any sort of results in the other skiing sports or mentioning any of the athletes that are competing in them. Lets hope this can improve soon.

  • Comment number 12.

    'We used to be no good at cycling and then we had some British success (e.g. Chris Boardman) and then more funding followed and now there's even a British funded pro tour team.'

    'No reason why that couldn't be repeated in a winter sport.'

    Its been repeated in winter sports. But by bob skeleton, a gold in 2010 and a bronze in 2006. Rightly they got more funding to help further their success.

    The problem with skiing is that it costs a lot more per athlete than something like bob skeleton. You can also get an athlete in their teens/ early 20s from athletics and get them to chuck themselves down a practise start track in Bath (such as Amy Williams), you can't do that with skiing, athletes have to learn at a very young age.

    Cyling is also different because you don't have to build a mountain to train cyclists (unless of course you plan to do the tour de france). Plunk a veledrome in Manchester and let it role from there. It much cheaper that flinging a load of skiers across Europe.

  • Comment number 13.

    Despite (in spite of?) the ongoing funding crisis in British Snowsports, certain disciplines are in rude health.

    This year has been probably the most successful EVER and this is down to plastic 'artificial' ski slopes.

    Katie Summerhayes and James 'Woodsy' Woods are just the tip of the iceberg as far as potential. These two are just the start as there are younger ones coming through…

    For example:
    Snowboarding
    § Jamie Nicholls with several podiums and winning on the TTR tour.
    § Jenny Jones with silver at the US X-Games to add to her two existing Golds.
    § Dom Harrington with a win at the Aspen Open
    § The last two weeks has seen James Stentiford with two podiums 3rd and a fourth on the Snowboard FWT.

    Skiing
    The team skiing results from the freestyle World Champs was it nearly all them in the top 20 and 4 four in the top ten?
    § Emma Lonsdale got top 10 in the half pipe.
    § James Machon winning in the US and finishing 3rd on the Gatorade tour.
    § Katie Summerhayes (she was 15!) on her 3rd at the European Open
    § Tyler Harding got top 10 aged 14?
    § Woodsy’s results on the Dew Tour – several podiums
    § Both Woodsy and Katie getting invited to the Euro X-Games and Woodsy bagging a Bronze
    § There might be more?
    I think it really has been an exceptional year from a country that doesn’t have any snow. They are all ‘dry slope’ skiers.
    There ought to be some sort of awards ceremony to give them some well deserved recognition and to encourage the next generation of athletes…

  • Comment number 14.

    "Also the BBC website is pretty poor giving any sort of results in the other skiing sports or mentioning any of the athletes that are competing in them. Lets hope this can improve soon."

    This would make a nice change. I have been competing for Great Britain on the Telemark Skiing World Cup (bet this is a sport in which we do pretty well at that none of you have heard of either) and we have never had our results published by the BBC or any other media that regularly reports on British sporting results.

    The perception that we will never be good at skiing lacks depth; funding is a vital ingredient in order to pay for coaching without which meaningful results are almost impossible.

    As for the comment about Austria's national team I agree that it probably wasn't a helpful analogy but it painted a picture. Imagine this - as a nation that does not have its very own 'viable' skiing industry we travel across to Europe and further in droves to fulfill our love for the white stuff. We plough thousands upon thousands of British money into European resorts (ski school, hire shops etc) and in most cases if not all a proportion of that money goes towards funding that particular nation's ski team...if every Brit that went on a ski holiday this last season joined the BSS for only £3 there would be hundreds of thousands of pounds in the BSS pot and athletes like me and others competing at the highest level wouldn't have to struggle to make ends meet to represent our country.

    Andrew Clarke
    British Telemark Team Captain and British Army Officer currently serving in Afghanistan

  • Comment number 15.

    Hi all, thanks for reading/commenting (even you, packersftw...and this is pretty average for me, 1,000 words...and every single one of them doing a job).

    chesteryorkie (1) - The point you make about the balance between our spend on sports we're good at and ones we're not so good at is exactly the point that British skiing's bosses have been making for decades. They understand that they shouldn't be first in line they just wonder why cycling, for example, should get £26m or so and they get nothing. And then there's the wider point about the overall spend on the Summer Games sports v the Winter sports...the difference is huge, something like £100m v £4m per annum. There are, of course, pretty solid, evidence-based reasons for that (chances of success, links to participation, size of the Games...basic return-on-investment stuff) but I can also see how unfair that must look to sports on the outside looking in. After all, we weren't very good at track cycling 15 years ago.

    Onetrydown (3) - I agree. That's what I meant when I referred to "snowboarding and newer skiing formats". The very newness of these events means we're not starting from such a disadvantage. You can pick many of them up much quicker than traditional skiing formats too. I'm not saying that makes it easier to be a champion but it does mean you can work out if you like it and are good at it quicker than, let's say, the super G. The other attraction of these events is that they require less mountain, so to speak. You don't need 3,000m peaks and 10km runs to be good in a half-pipe. These are the areas BSS should be targetting its resources. Win a medal or two there and you can use the funding you'll gain to kickstart the rest of the programme.....see British Cycling for details!

    U146etc (4) - Erm...I agree. It's what I say in the very next paragraph. And have said in numerous blogs and news articles over the years. UK Sport has been and continues to be a big success. That is why other countries are looking very jealously as the funding system we've got going into London 2012. But as I've said many times before, it can seem a bit doctrinaire and inflexible to those on the outside. A good example is the disparity between what skiing/snowboarding gets and what sports like speed skating and women's bob get, particularly as those two only just got over the performance bar. Basketball v handball/volleyball is a similar example on the summer side. As for using the Austrian example, I don't think it's silly at all. I picked them out to indicate the size of GB's task. Winning a medal, any medal, will be a remarkable achievement for a British skier/snowboarder when the leading nations in the sport are spending 20+ times what we're spending. But you're right about one thing: that's life.

  • Comment number 16.

    'We plough thousands upon thousands of British money into European resorts (ski school, hire shops etc) and in most cases if not all a proportion of that money goes towards funding that particular nation's ski team'

    We also plough millions into beach holidays. None of that goes towards the beach volleyball team. Sorry a bit sarcastic, but just because someone participates in an activity does not mean their going to be willing to pay £3 to fund elite sport.

  • Comment number 17.

    'As for using the Austrian example, I don't think it's silly at all. I picked them out to indicate the size of GB's task. Winning a medal, any medal, will be a remarkable achievement for a British skier/snowboarder when the leading nations in the sport are spending 20+ times what we're spending.'

    I understand your point, but the funding the Austrian team receive will never be matched by Britain, even if Britain won a gold medal, so its an unfair comparison. It is a difficult task in any sport for a team that does not get the same as others, be it Wolves in football trying to match Chelsea or the Austrian track cycling team trying to compete with their GB counterparts.

  • Comment number 18.

    Some more replies (as those were written just before the site underwent crucial maintenance...either that or somebody pressed the wrong button again):

    elsol (5) - Yes, no doubt about it, for a British person to get very good at skiing they are going to have to spent a lot of money over the years. Unless they life in the Caingorms...and even then I think they'd struggle to get enough hours of quality ski time (on hard enough slopes) to become a true contender. I guess Alain Baxter gave it a good go, though. But, and there is a but, getting good at nearly every sport, particularly the Olympics sports we're best at, is also very expensive. If it's not the equipment, it will be the travel involved, the coaching, the insurance, the match fees and so on. To be honest, there is a "middle-class sport" bias in the entire Olympic programme and we do best in the sports at the "upper" end...a fact reflected in the composition of our team - nearly 40% of them privately educated, as opposed to national average of 7%...and for our actual medallists the ratio is even more biased towards private education. Most elite sport is very expensive.

    TCSC47 (6) - Ahh, the old British accents abroad test! Yep, it's a small world....or do we move in small circles?!? I know what you mean, though. The whole issue of British mass participation in winter sports is a bit of a can of worms, mainly because while lots of people go on ski holidays, that week abroad isn't enough to register on Sport England's Active People Survey (the key measure for grassroots/mass participation sport). So British ski/snowboard bosses have been talking about this country's 2m skiers for years but that's a very flakey, so to speak, number. It would include my mum, for example, and she hates skiing and never progressed beyond the adult beginner class despite being able to perform a textbook snowplough. Sadly, that's all she ever did. The more relevant numbers are 100,000 and 180,000. That's the number of English people who "play" some form of winter sport once a week and once a month. So what you have is a very large number of people who have tried skiing, with most of those liking it and wishing they could do it more often, but a very small number doing it anywhere near enough to get good at it.

    Neilthedrillgodden (7) - I've already answered the Austrian comparison question above but you make an interesting point about tennis. Fair comment. But have you ever wondered why our cyclists, rowers and sailors have responded so well to having money showered on them in recent years? A similar story is emerging elsewhere in sports like boxing and canoeing. Might it just be that some sports are better run/structured than others?

    Ben (8) - I sense your frustration and sympathise but I should probably point out that baseball has been dropped by the Olympics (and we didn't fund it anyway), table tennis is embroiled in same argument as skiing, and volleyball is getting by on very reduced rations too. Of the sports you mention only basketball is currently getting much UK Sport love and the reason for that is that it has shown pretty remarkable progress of late. OK, it started from a low, low base, but 2012 has concentrated minds and it's not beyond the realms of possibility that the men's team could make the last eight in London....and that would be a good base to build on.

    Right, that's more than enough from me. For those asking about why I didn't talk about cross country and biathlon too, well, it's mainly because this blog was about alpine skiing and packersftw thought it was too long as it is. To be fair, Edwards did flag up young Musgrave as one to watch. And I know of one very senior former BOA employee who used to love biathlon. I think the problem we had there (apart from the obvious snow issue) was that this country's gun laws don't help. Perhaps that's one for a future blog.

  • Comment number 19.

    TelemarkHero is there any more information you can provide? I have actually heard of telemark skiing but didn't know it had a world cup or competitions like that. Is any of it shown live on TV and broadcasted on the internet?

    I have to go onto the official Biathlon (biathlonworld.com) website to watch live competitions. Seeing that you have finished your world cup and are now in Afghanistan I bet you are feeling the diferent temperature change for the minus degrees to the high 30-40's.

    We are proud of everyone serving out there. Hope you all keep safe.

  • Comment number 20.

    Matt,
    Hi, a really interesting read. Sir John Ritblat is someone who needs to be thanked, he has helped tremendously. One thing i disagree with though is that Sport UK rewards success and ignores failures. I dont believe this to be the case. I have recently followed the quest of one of the UK's top snowboarders - Zoe gillings. She has been funded by UK Sport up until recently and despite fiishing in the top 10 at the vancouver Olympics, top 7 at the world championships and yesterday 3rd at the world cup finals - UK sport are ending her funding from the end of march. It seems the snowboarders dont have a "sir John" to help and they have nothing despite meeting the requirements of UK Sports no compromise approach?? What is going on?? Any deas?

  • Comment number 21.

    Throughout this blog, skiing is referred to as an elite sport. All sports are elite when you reach the top. Elite - the best or choice part of a larger body or group.
    You don't need to go far in the UK to find out that grass roots skiing is not elite in the terms the word is being used in many of the comments. Go to your local dry ski slope, there are plenty of them around, and take a good look. Go to one of these slopes when there is a Regional race, a National race or even a Grand Prix race. Look at the aspiring racers, watch them fine tune their equipment, then tell me that they are elite. Hundreds of young athletes travel around the country in their quest for glory, just like the £1 football and the two jumper and their aim to achieve in their chosen sport. Why knock skiing just because it isn't main stream.
    Surely it is time to recognise that sport, any sport, is good. As a country, will we ever be able to recover from selling off the school playing fields and the local parks. It has to be the right time to fund as much sport, and as many sports, as possible. Sport promotes personal discipline, team work and friendship. It doesn't promote riots, fighting and crime. If this means sport is elitist, give me the elite any day.

  • Comment number 22.

    There are lots of issues why skiing isn't funded especially well.

    1. Most British people enjoy watching the summer olympics but not as much the Winter. Therefore there is less pressure on the BOA to fund sports where majority of the population could not give two hoots about how we do. Take this V Athletics etc

    2. Skiing although fun to do is actually mostly pretty tedious to watch.

    3. It is expensive to do properly and usually when you do go you are surrounded by Hooray Henry's talking about how much money they earn

    4. We have no tradition therefore nothing to lose and no decent Brit to support (I appreciate this is not the case in Snowboarding and a couple of other Winter sports). Take Curling, no one was interested in that until suddenly GB could win a medal. It is all about turning neutrals into fans. Of course ski fans will watch skiing no matter who is racing but for the masses they need a Brit doing well. They are not going to tune in to see whether a Brit manages to get 56th place or 57th.

    Of course it s a vicious circle because we need someone to do well before we can justify additional funds.

  • Comment number 23.

    Missing Chemmy, but more than happy to watch Maria, Linsey and Julia and others compete this year. Not convinced we have to have a Brit to make us watch skiing.

    I hasve to disagree that going skiing means listening to lots of Hooray Henrys, more often the voices are either local or Russian.

    Zoe Gilling's funding being discontinued is simply shocking.

  • Comment number 24.

    20 years ago, our school ski holiday in the 1980's was about £200 for a week in France. Latest school ski holiday prices in 2011 (for a friend's 14 year old child) was £2,000 (OK, it was to Canada). Mad prices - how can we get the have-a-go kids when prices are so high?

 

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