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Lake District skiers

(8 minute read)

From the seasoned mountain guide who grew up in a ski shop, to the Wonderful Wild Women taking to the face of Helvellyn, we meet four of the adventurous characters who live for skiing in the Lake District (when the weather allows, that is). Thrillingly unpredictable conditions, skiing from your own front door, or powder descents by head torch – discover the little things that drive this mountain-loving local community.

Skiing in the Lakes

Vicki McCreadie

Age: 34

Occupation: Freelance Outdoor Education Instructor, STA Open Water Swim Coach, Owner of Vicki and Louie Guided walks

Lives: Killington

How did you get into skiing in the Lake District?

The first time I realised it was possible to ski here was the heavy snowfall in 2012. I was snowed in for three days, so I took my skis up a hill near Coniston while waiting to be dug out. But it wasn’t until 2016 that the stars aligned and I made it up to Helvellyn and Raise. I went with friends who grew up here and kindly took me under their wing, sharing their local knowledge.

Highlights so far?

That first experience of skiing Helvellyn in November 2016 is still one of the best I’ve had in the Lakes and will stay with me forever.

In came the text at 5:30am: ‘Grab your kit, we’re going skiing.’ The conditions were incredible – fresh powder, sometimes up to my waist. Even though I was exhausted from an early start, a ski tour into Swirral Edge from the mines at Glenridding and a boot pack up to the top, I was over the moon to get to the summit of Helvellyn, with light winds, clear skies and views for miles.

Little did I know that my friend, Jack, had big plans for me, and led me off to ski down the face of Helvellyn towards Red Tarn before meeting the others on Raise. At the bottom, Jack turned to me and said, “Not many people in the world can say they’ve done that!” It wasn’t his first rodeo, but he was so chuffed for me that I’d got to do it. I couldn’t quite believe it either and still grin thinking about it.

What makes that memory so special is the coming together of conditions, the right kit, the right group of people and that timely push out of my comfort zone. It may not align ever again in the same way.

I’ve since had many days ski touring in the Lakes. All have been worth it – even when survival mode is activated and you may or may not have shed a tear into your goggles…

skiing in the lake district

What do you love about skiing in the Lakes?

 What keeps me coming back for more is that this is HOME! I never imagined I would be able to ski where I lived – let alone walk, bike, swim and run in the same place too. After a big day out, you have all the satisfaction of a ski trip abroad, but this was on your doorstep. The Lake District is magical in all seasons but when there’s snow, it’s spectacular.

What would we always find in your pack? 

Because the conditions can be less than reliable and the environment is wild, I always have my transceiver, shovel and probe. And you can rely on me to bring freshly-baked sugar hits!

And when you’re not skiing…?

For the rest of the year, I enjoy the mountains and lakes in all sorts of ways. From walks and swims in beautiful locations through Vicki and Louie Guided Walks, to Outdoor Education Centre outings, showing children and adults from all backgrounds everything these green and blue spaces have to offer. 

In my spare time, I love to mountain bike, open water swim, stand-up paddleboard (SUP), sail and be with friends, family and dogs. I’m also part of the Wonderful Wild Women team who help create opportunities for women and men to access the outdoors. 

@vickiandlouieguidedwalks
@mccreadievicki
vickiandlouieguidedwalks.co.uk

Helvellyn Adventures by Mountain Run

Charles Sproson

Age: 48

Occupation: Mountain running guide, business owner and race director for Lake District Sky Trails and Keswick Mountain Festival sky and trail races

Lives: Head of the Glenridding valley

How long have you been skiing in the Lake District? 

I grew up in my parents’ ski shop in Windemere, and as little kids we skied in the park opposite or took a rope tow to Kirkstone Pass at weekends. When he wasn’t in the shop fixing skis, my dad took me on ski touring missions in the Lakeland fells. In my early teens, we’d ski the Kentmere Horseshoe, Wansfell Ridgeline and drift ski on spring snow on the back of The Dodds. I even skied to work in Kendal when I was 18!

Highlights so far?

There are too many! Wansfell Ridgeline and Kentmere Horseshoe on skinny touring skis with leather boots with my dad in the late ’80s; skiing Red Tarn Face (RTF) on telemark skis; my first descent of the sugar bowl; climbing and skiing RTF with Isaac Ravenhill, my stepson, for Life of a Mountain (see below).

Skiing with my 9-year-old son in lockdown last winter was pretty special, as was a recent day this January with two awesome powder descents by head torch off Raise and Catstycam. And not forgetting last May, when we were super lucky to get fresh powder snow in late spring…

What do you love about skiing in the Lakes?

It’s my favourite place to ski. Probably because it’s always been home and so skiing here is just so special. But I also love the fickle conditions: the snow’s here one minute and gone the next, or it can stay for weeks if we’re lucky. No one knows how long it will be here or how many times it will come – it may not come at all for a season, but I don’t remember a year without skiing at least a few times. 

Because of the access we have living in Glenridding and the innate knowledge of the weather systems, I can ski before work and then have a normal day like everyone else. But the snow might be gone by the afternoon or recede to the high slopes and the coves of Helvellyn. 

Although the snow is rarely consistent, the mountains lend themselves to skiing and pack a massive punch for a small descent. I just love the fact I can sometimes ski from my front door out into pure and wild mountains and be back in my warm nest before anyone else is awake.

What would we always find in your pack? 

A blizzard survival bag, and a cheese and ham sandwich.

And when you’re not skiing…?

Dreaming of skiing! Plus, running and climbing in the mountains.

Where else do you like to ski?  

I’ve skied in France (Alps and Pyrenees), Italy, Germany and Norway. I‘ve also skied in Glencoe many times, as well as Glenshee, Nevis Range and Cairngorm. 

@glenridding_mountain_runner
mountainrun.co.uk
lakedistrictskytrails.com

skiing in the lake district

Jenny Nuttall

Age: 44

Occupation: Lawyer, bike shop owner and British Cycling Mountain Bike Guide

Lives: Ulverston

How did you first get into skiing in the Lake District?

My parents were keen members of the Raise ski club, so I was introduced to it pretty early on when I was about five or six. We’d sometimes stay in the YHA at the foot of the zigzags or in Patterdale. There were always other kids there too, so it felt like one big family.

The weather was usually wild: low visibility, high winds, crusty snow with the odd rock and grass tuft. But occasionally, the clouds would lift, and the view would open up down to Ullswater to the east and Keswick and Skiddaw to the west. When the sun’s shining, there’s nowhere better.

As a teenager, I remember days when the snow would stretch all the way back to the road, which meant you could ski from Raise right back to the car!

Highlights so far?

The most memorable day has to be when I was about 13 years old. The conditions were perfect for Helvellyn, so a big group of us hiked over there at the end of a day’s skiing on Raise. We made a slight cut in the cornice, and the jump off the top was certainly memorable – as were the first few turns. The face was in such good condition we hiked straight up the front and did it again. Just brilliant! And, being the early ‘90s, I was rocking a fresh Rossi monoboard with this logo of a glass tumbler with ice and cherries on the front…

skiing in the lake district

Where else have you skied?

I’ve skied abroad almost every year of my life. I was also lucky enough to work a season in Banff, Canada, where I gained my Canadian Ski Instructors’ Badge.

What keeps you coming back to ski in the Lakes?

Sure, the conditions are variable, but in a way, that’s what makes it special. When you have a good day up there – sun, snow, low wind – it’s one of the best places to ski. The views are incredible, and the team of volunteers who run the club help to make the day so memorable. Sometimes, you need a generous dose of optimism and good humour. But the fact that you get to ski on your doorstep in the Lakes is what makes it so special and utterly unique.

What would we always find in your pack? 

A waterproof. And a chocolate bar.

And when you’re not skiing…?

The rest of the year I love to hike, mountain bike, fell run and wild swim. An ideal day for me would be a big mountain run with a swim in a river or tarn on the way.

 @jennuttall

www.ridebikes.co.uk

skiing in the lake district

Isaac Ravenhill

Age: 19

Occupation: Student, University of Edinburgh

Lives: Between his parents’ houses in the Bowness and the Glenridding valley

How long have you been skiing in the Lake District?

I was first introduced to skiing on Raise when I was about 12 or 13 by my stepdad Charles Sproson after we moved to the Glenridding valley. Luckily, he’s an experienced mountain guide, so I was in safe hands.

How does it compare to skiing abroad?

Skiing in the Lakes is a totally different ball game to the Alps. The snow is variable, and you often get four seasons in one day. When I was younger, the intense weather made it more difficult, but as long as you have the right equipment and respect the conditions, there’s always fun to be had.

Highlights so far?

Skiing the Helvellyn bowl with Charlie (and being filmed doing it by Terry Abraham for his documentary about life on the mountain). The weather was bitterly cold, and the wind cut right through you, but the snow was awesome. We had a great few runs – the Red Tarn bowl is always a thriller. Every time you do it, it’s unique.

skiing in the lake district

What keeps you coming back for more?

Firstly, the fact it’s right outside my door! And the excitement you get from it is something else. The walk up to Raise is tough, but you appreciate every turn. The conditions are reliably unreliable, so when it’s good, it just hits differently.

What would we always find in your pack? 

Aside from a bivvy bag, I always say to take one more layer than you think is necessary as anything can happen up there. And for a treat, a wee bit of chocolate works wonders! 

And when you’re not skiing…?

Running, climbing, mountain biking: if it’s outdoors, I’m there.

@isaacravers

skiing in the lake district

Find out more about the Lake District Ski Club and its history in our interview with its president, Mike Sweeney.

Read our quick guide to skiing in the Lake District

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