Picture a ski resort in the most alpine area of England, sitting among the highest mountains.
Only with no chalets, no chair-lifts to clutter the dramatic terrain, no swanky new 4x4s. Replace the pine forest with huge ash trees, wrapping their roots around boulders that lie on low limestone ridges. No ski-hire shops. Just a vast, epically wild place to go and ski… This is Raise, home to the Lake District Ski Club.
The club was founded in 1936 after a team of experienced and enthusiastic skiers spent months looking for a place to ski in the Lake District. Eventually Raise was chosen – a fell in the Lake District National Park which stands tall on the main spine of the Helvellyn range, between Ullswater and Thirlmere.
Today, the Lake District Ski Club operates a 360 metre button tow on Raise, dug out by hand and situated at around 800m in a bowl serving a snow-holding gulley. There are up to nine distinct, ungroomed pistes available, depending on prevailing conditions; the longest piste is almost a mile along. The tow lift itself has been known to be buried by the snow almost to the top of the pylons as previous seasons have gone by. When conditions are right, Raise offers some serious skiing for an average of 60 days each winter season (November – April).
Raise makes for an unforgettable day out in good conditions, though not for the faint hearted. Skiing or snowboarding can be rough and ready. The runs are formed by naturally occurring parts of the mountain and maintained by nature alone. Chat to the friendly club committee members who operate the tow about the best first and last run of the day.
Getting up the mountain
Getting to the ski area on Raise requires about an hour’s hike up the mountain for somebody who is physically fit, but don’t let that put you off – once you reach the top and have regained your breath, the views will undoubtedly take it away again. Conditions on the mountain can change rapidly. Navigating your way up and down Raise is made less challenging with a map and a compass, so make sure they’re packed in your rucksack before you set off.
To use the facilities at the Lake District Ski Club you must join as a member, but you can do this on the day and buy a lift pass for the day for around £30. Full season passes are available for £50 and run from October 1. Facilities include access to the Millennium Hut – the club’s quarters with heating, electricity and bathroom facilities.
The Lake District Ski Club is entirely run by volunteers. Committee members, many of whom have spent decades at the club, are now actively encouraging younger members to come on board – key to the success of the club’s future.
Bring on the snow and ski wild on Raise: www.ldscsnowski.co.uk