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Disabled skiers launch campaign to keep dry slope open

Disabled skier
The Disabled Ski Club's open day begins at 10am on 6 November

Disabled skiers have launched a campaign after hearing the dry slope they use is going to close.

The facility at Plas y Brenin in Capel Curig, near Betws-y-Coed, was the first in Britain to offer disabled people the chance to ski when it opened 40 years ago.

But the Mountain Training Trust who currently run the outdoor activities centre say they don't have the funds to renew the ski slope when it reaches the end of its life, which could be in a couple of years.

If the slope were to close, the North Wales Disabled Ski Club fear that no other facilities in the area would be appropriate.

"The ski slope in Llandudno isn't suitable because of the material it's made of, and issues with access," said Peter Harris, vice-chairman of the club.

"So if Plas y Brenin slope was to close, the closest ski slope would be Llangrannog [south west Wales]. The people of north Wales will lose this facility unless they fight for it."

The Big Society should offer an ideal opportunity for clubs to help get involved in running a venture like this
Jayne Wainwright, North Wales Snowsports Club

However, Nigel Treacy, Manager of the Llandudno Ski & Snowboard Centre, says they have facilitated many disabled groups without problems.

"In 2006 the centre installed Perma Snow, a revolutionary new matting surface with qualities more akin to snow," he said.

"Most importantly Perma Snow is proven to be a safer and more user friendly surface making it especially suitable for disabled skiers.

"Whilst Plas y Brenin is a competitor, it has been responsible for introducing many thousands of people to our wonderful sport."

A campaign group, determined to also keep Plas-y-Brenin open has been set up to bring the situation to the attention of local AMs, MPs and MEPs.

Martin Doyle, chief executive of Plas y Brenin, confirmed there was no funding to keep the slope open when the time comes to replace it.

"Ideally, it would be completely renewed, but it can't be because it is not a cost-effective solution," he said.

"So unfortunately, eventually we won't be able to afford to repair it, and it will go.

"No ski slopes are being built, other than snow domes. But the reality is, if a snow dome was built it would have to be on the [A55] expressway where you have the necessary population.

"We've shared this information with the ski clubs to give them the opportunity to think of alternatives in the area."

Charitable trust

Jayne Wainwright is ski coach and chair of the North Wales Snowsports Club, which also meets at Plas y Brenin.

She said the best option for them is Plas y Brenin as it's owned by Sport England and run by a charitable trust.

"Our club and Ski Wales are happy to help to physically maintain the slope, or to raise funds to repair it," said Jayne. "But they don't seem to want to explore any other options other than closure.

"The coalition government's idea of the Big Society should offer an ideal opportunity for clubs to help get involved in running a venture like this, and we have the expertise among our members to do so."

With the club's 50th anniversary only two years away, Jayne thinks losing this facility would be very bad for the local community.

Self-confidence

"Although we've produced skiers who've been part of the British squad, that isn't what's most important," she said.

"There were skiers from aged four to 74 with us last week.

"I don't know many sports where that range of ages and abilities can be doing the same activity and having a great time. Skiing is a skill you learn for life and can really boost self-confidence."

The North Wales Snowsports Club meets each Saturday afternoon at Plas y Brenin.

The North Wales Disabled Ski Club, who meet on the first Saturday of the month, have an open day at Plas y Brenin on Saturday, 6 November.




SEE ALSO
Dry ski slope 'could be rescued'
27 Aug 10 |  Edinburgh, East & Fife

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