Dry slope to Olympics...Why are Brits so good at Skiing & Snowboarding?
I used to think that coming from a dry slope background put me at a disadvantage, but I realise now that if you want it badly enough, then it doesn't matter where you started, you will get to where you want to be and you will be successful.
I was looking back at some old dry slope footage and I couldn't help but think how proud I am that I have come from riding the plastic dry slopes of Halifax to winning X Games and World Cup medals all over the globe. GB Park and Pipe in general have such a strong team of riders which is really amazing considering most of us came from riding dry slopes and snow domes up and down the UK.
Right now, us Brits are challenging the top of the podiums in both Slopestyle and Big Air, as well as having 3 World Firsts with my Backside Double Cork 1080 and Billy Morgan's Triple Backside Rodeo and Quadruple Cork. Billy and Izzy Atkin both won Bronze medals at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympic Games, as well as Jenny Jones winning Bronze in Sochi 2014. When you think about it, the rest of the world have a HUGE advantage over us because we don't have any snow resorts or mountains except for a small resort in Scotland.
This begs the question...Why are Brits so good at Skiing and Snowboarding?
In the last year, GB Park and Pipe now have an airbag and a super tramp...both incredible features that will have a huge impact on performance; but the UK's Ski and Snowboarding talent came long before this, going back over 10 years and here's why...
Personally, the fact that we don't have mountains made me more determined and hungrier to get those medals from an early age. I remember going to my first big international competition when I was 11 years old at the Burton Junior European Open in Laax and I knew going in that I was at a disadvantage because most of the other girls were training in the mountains, whereas I was training on dry slope and in a snow dome on freestyle nights. This however, made me train extra hard as I wanted to prove to myself that I was as good as, if not better than the girls who had grown up near a snow resort.
I went to the competition and placed 4th. This made me even more determined and I had now seen the level of the other competitors, so after another year of Snowboarding in the UK, I went back to Laax and in the same competition placed 2nd and 3rd in Slopestyle and half pipe. It was the best feeling!
Growing up, I went to Halifax dry slope and Castleford Snow Dome a few times every week, as well as Gymnastics. At most, I went Snowboarding abroad maybe 2-3 times a year for the British championships, a summer snowboarding camp and the odd competition in between. I did this until I was around 14 when I joined the British Snowboard team where I could start travelling abroad more and get properly coached, instead of just learning by watching other riders.
Having a good coach made a huge difference to me as I began to learn lots of new tricks and improve other aspects of my riding, which I couldn't do on my own.
IS IT LUCK?
No. Definitely not. I've learnt over the years by watching other riders that luck can only get you so far. Luck can get you nice sponsors and maybe put you in a final and at most on a podium, but to be a really good athlete you have to make your own luck by training and putting everything in to it. To be constantly getting into finals and on elite podiums, you need to be working as hard as you can as often as you can, which is why it's so nice to see so many of us Brits doing well at competitions - because we sure have had to work for it.
All those hours on the dry slopes and in snow domes really pay off, because even though it might not seem like much, the dry slopes offer a consistent jump and a quick lap, meaning you can get lots of repetitions in (which is great because it is also really fun!) and there's also lots of inconsistent weather, which gets us used to bad weather conditions in the mountains (to some extent).
Dry slope is also a lot harder to ride than real snow, so learning tricks on dry slope should make it easier once we go to the mountains. Matt McCormick is the UK's leading dry slope Snowboarder and he still rides regularly on dry slope when he isn't travelling abroad because it's really enjoyable and there's also still lots he can do and learn.
The same goes with the snow domes, there's always a quick lap with different rails, making it fun and easy to learn new tricks.
Since we don't have any resorts nearby, we have to travel alot to different countries to get the proper training we need on big jumps and rails. This takes a lot of commitment because although it is so amazing being able to travel the world Snowboarding, it can be hard work during the contest period due to travel and Jet lag. Again though, if you want it badly enough, you will do all the travelling to different training camps and competitions to get to the top and we do!
I can't speak for the other riders, but for me personally, I really appreciate every moment I have being on my Snowboard in the mountains and I have always made the most of any opportunity given to me, whether it's a training camp or even just a good weather day...I don't like to miss out on anything and I think this stems from growing up on dry slope and really being able to appreciate Snowboarding on real snow.
I think it's amazing that Britain are now one of the teams that other countries fear when it comes to competitions and things are only going to keep getting better for us!
In December, Graystone Academy are opening in Manchester which is going to have a ramp to a foam pit, a huge skate park, as well as a full sized sprung floor, trampolines and a Super tramp! This is going to take action sports to the next level in the UK which is going to be so exciting!
I honestly can't wait to see where British Skiing and Snowboarding is going to go in the years to come, I have a feeling it is only going to go upwards.
Katie O x