Page last updated at 19:21 GMT, Thursday, 11 February 2010

Olympic effort to save Midlothian ski slope

Hillend dry ski slope
The centre in Midlothian has made annual losses of thousands of pounds

Two former Scottish Winter Olympians have joined a campaign to save Europe's longest dry ski slope, the Midlothian Snowsports Centre.

Alain Baxter and Finlay Mickel said the council facility at Hillend near Edinburgh, was important for the future of their sport.

The centre is being threatened with closure because it has been losing money.

The Scottish Green Party has also tabled a motion to save the ski slope.

Finlay Mickel, the former British number one downhill skier, learned to ski at Hillend as a toddler.

He said: "We would be losing so much for Edinburgh and the Lothians.

"It is the place where all the kids get started, it is where I started as a two-year-old and where I first got my love for the sport."

It is our intention to do everything possible to retain the facility and keep it open and try to bring that operating loss down
Cleland Sneddon
Midlothian Council

Former Olympic skier, Alain Baxter, said: "I have got lots of good memories of Hillend.

"It would be very sad if it had to close down."

The motion to save the dry ski slope in Midlothian was submitted to the Scottish Parliament by Green Party MSP Robin Harper.

He said: "This is not just a Midlothian ski centre, it is a national ski centre.

"We have 29 Olympians who trained there.

"We have 200 people training there on a daily basis as the moment, it really would be a disaster for Scotland's build up to the Olympics

"Midlothian Council must recognise they have been in charge of a national centre and they should live up to the responsibility that they have."

Operating loss

Midlothian Council said it was facing funding cuts of more than £18m in the next three years and councillors said the criticism from Robin Harper was unfair.

Cleland Sneddon, director of HR and performance management, said: "We recognise this is a national facility and it is unfortunate that Midlothian Council have had to operate it at that level of an operating loss.

"So we have sought discussions with national agencies including Sport Scotland and any of our partners in and around Midlothian to try to bring them to the table and see what they can contribute.

"It is our intention to do everything possible to retain the facility and keep it open and try to bring that operating loss down."

There is also a campaign to save the dry ski slope on the social networking site Facebook, which now has more than 15,000 names.



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