I’ve been involved with the Ski Club for about 12 years. I took up skiing in 2008, and found out about the Lake District Ski Club after my first ski trip abroad. I stumbled up in a blizzard, and couldn’t find the lift – which I found out wasn’t running anyway – and after that I was hooked. It’s a love affair really. I just love going up there.
We’re the third oldest ski club in the country after the Ski Club of Great Britain and the Eagles Ski Club. We’re a really important part of the history of UK skiing. We were founded in 1936, which actually predates resorts like Verbier and the Three Valleys in France and constructed the UK’s first ski tow in 1954. William Heaton Cooper, the Lakeland artist, was an early club member, and designed the first club badge. Our first president was Leslie Somervell; his brother Howard was with George Mallory on his Everest expeditions.
“We actually predate resorts like Verbier and the Three Valleys in France.”
The club isn’t just part of the history of UK skiing; it’s part of the fabric of Lake District life. There’s a great body of knowledge and experience within the club. Many of our members live locally. We have a range of ages, from early teens up (one of our former presidents, Gerard Unthank, is still skiing here in his 80s). Whenever possible we open to non-members, usually during the week – we couldn’t do it on a sunny Sunday, as we’d be overwhelmed.
In May 2021, we had 3 days of snow and were able to run the tow just after the lockdown had been lifted. We were like pit ponies put out to grass – or to snow! Ear to ear grins, everyone giddy. That went global; there was a guy in Whistler, Canada, tweeting, “You’re doing better than we are!” and Meteo France tweeted “incroyable!” We were the only lift still running in western Europe. We have around 350 members, but now, thanks to social media, also have a waiting list of 400 more and a Facebook group of more than 7000!
We’re not a ski resort, so you need to be properly prepared. It’s a fairly tough steep climb up carrying boots and skis, and you need to be fit, physically and mentally. You also need the right kit. We always ask people to walk up with a member first. At the moment we only have a single fixed button tow, which is 360m long, although we’ve just installed a new rope tow too which should enable us to accommodate more skiers when conditions allow.
Our members’ hut is small but cosy. You can make a cup of tea, and it’s heated with power from the tow hut. There’s also a flushing toilet – the second highest in England, after the radar station at Great Dunn Fell in the Pennines, we believe. We call it “the powder room”.