March Club of the Month 2022

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Sitting 24 miles north of London, Hemel Hempstead is perhaps not the place one would expect to come across fresh snow on a daily basis.

But the adaptive skiing facilities provided by Disability Snowsports UK makes the town’s Snow Centre an ideal place to give winter sports a try.

In their impressive indoor facility just off the M1, fresh snow is made every night, ready for the hundreds of snowsports enthusiasts to enjoy the next morning.

The snow is made artificially, using water, in the facility that is kept as low as -6° overnight, before it rises to -2° during the day.

The low temperature, combined with the pictures of mountains in the backdrop, fresh snow and ski lifts gives it the authenticity of skiing in the Alps, while the flexible facilities and knowledgeable instructors allow anyone to participate, no matter their disability or previous experience.

The facilities are impressive but it is the equipment and staff that make Disability Snowsports UK what it is, catering for everybody’s needs and making snowsports inclusive, allowing everyone to take part and enjoy the thrills of sliding down a mountain.

Nowhere was this more in evidence than in a recent visit from The Village School, which caters for children with special educational needs in the London borough of Brent and has made snowsports a focal point of PE lessons.

“It means a lot to come here, we’ve embedded skiing and snowsports within the curriculum at school, the pupils really enjoy coming,” said Jonathan Bath, the school’s head of PE.

“They’re excited and they really enjoy coming here. It’s every week on a Friday, and they love it.

“They love going on the snow and participating in a new sport. They wouldn’t normally get the experience to do that at The Village School, so it’s an inclusive, different sport that excites them and supports their physical development and mental wellbeing, which is very important for us.”

Among the staff who make The Snow Centre such a welcoming environment is James Sterry, Disability Snowsports UK School Manager, who is responsible for the smooth running of the adaptive programme.

“Snowsports are critical to children’s development, both from a technical point of view and learning a new skill, but also for the social development as well, which is really important,” he said.

“The opportunity to come to an event like this, meet new people, and everything that goes with the sport as well as the teaching element is really important.”

Simon Mathias, whose son Josh uses a sit ski to enjoy the adrenaline rush of going down the mountains, also praised the facilities.

“It’s fantastic,” he said. “There are very few places our son can go to experience these sorts of activities, and The Snow Centre is brilliant.

“He absolutely loves going down the slopes with the instructors and he giggles the whole way down.

“It’s just an experience for him, and it’s nice to come as a whole family to do things together really.

“It’s very important because there are very few activities that our son can access. This centre just really accommodates him and his needs.

“There’s a place he can get changed, and the instructors are really careful around his needs to support him.” 

Their hard work in making snowsports accessible has seen Disability Snowsports UK at the Hemel Hempstead Snow Centre named Parasport Club of the Month for March, which Sterry is hoping will only help raise awareness of the venue.

“It’s an amazing privilege to be Parasport Club of the Month,” he said.

“Hopefully it will enable us to reach more people with disabilities to get the word out there that we have access to snowsports for everybody here.”