Some Early Recollections of SCoM and Local Skiing


Reporter: R.D.

My first introduction to skiing came after my father had been on a trip to Gielo, Norway, organised by the Central Council for Physical recreation (CCPR) in the early 1950s. He brought me back a pair of wooden skis with leather bindings. At the first opportunity we drove up into Derbyshire and found a short slope where I had my first ski lesson.

Around that time my parents joined the Ski Club of Great Britain. Local members of SCGB met regularly on Tuesday evenings at Manchester Ice Palace on Cheetham Hill Road and when conditions permitted would meet up at The Setter Dog (on the Macclesfield—Buxton road) or the Edale/Mam Tor area to ski. There were no portable ski lifts in those days, so it was a case of walking up after each run. They also went on holidays organised by SCGB.

The winter of 1962/3 saw skiing every weekend from New Year up to early March at the Peak ski tow which ran at Ford Hall Farm on the road from Chapel-en-le-Frith up to Mam Tor. However I first came across the Ski Club of Manchester at Easter 1969. Conditions looked promising so I drove up to Mam Tor where there were hoards of people. I made my way along the path that runs along the North side of Mam Tor to a spot where the path curves to the right. It was there that the club had set up its tow on a steep strip of snow that had gathered there to some depth in an easterly wind. It was also a beautiful sunny day making for almost alpine conditions.

In the Winter of 1970/71 when conditions again looked promising, I drove up to Ford Hall and shortly Gerald Wilmer (secretary) and Mike Tann (chairman) arrived with the SCoM ski tow. This time I had to join in order to use the tow and having done so became an active member of the club, later joining the committee and in 1979 becoming chairman.

Regular activities included Keep Fit at the College on Hardman St, monthly talks, local skiing when conditions permitted, grass skiing and trips to Scotland which I was most interested in. Also some members went skating regularly, this time at Altrincham Ice Rink.

Local snow skiing

During winter months, when there was a prospect of snow at weekend there would be frantic phone calls between committee members to determine if and where skiing might be possible. Locations included Ford Hall, Rushup Edge, Mam Tor, Doctor’s Gate (Glossop), Kettleshulme and occasionally Dun Fell in the northern Pennines. One particularly good winter was that of 1979. A group of skiers led by Mike Whitby who all lived in Glossop joined the club. Mike found a nice slope near Glossop and obtained the farmer’s permission to ski there. But the snow kept coming and also an even better slope was found in the field above, which was great until we got into trouble with the National Park authorities. Eventually a series of mild winters and the cost of insurance meant that local snow skiing was discontinued.

Grass skiing

In the early 1970s grass skiing was becoming quite popular and the club had purchased several pairs of grass skis which consisted of caterpillar tracks about 18” long that you strapped to your boots. However later models were longer with wider tracks and more stable. My first attempt was at a meet arranged by SCGB on Werneth Low. A number of races were organised including a dual slalom relay which was great fun and in which I took part. Another meet was later arranged at Limefitt Park in the Lake District. A group of us from the club went up and there we met the Beck family who had come down from Scotland. Their young daughter Lesley borrowed a pair of our skis and despite her young age and the fact that she had never been on grass skis beat everyone in sight!

Artificial Slopes

The opening of the Rossendale Ski Centre made a big difference to the club. Monthly meetings were held and courses organised usually at the start of the club season around October. These were usually led by Stuart Adamson a BASI trainer from Aviemore. Jane Fairclough also organised some trips to Hillend, Edinburgh where we had a weekend of instruction on the huge slope.

Scotland

When I first joined the only ski trips were to Scotland, none abroad.There were up to three trips a year up to Aviemore and on a few occasions Jane Fairclough managed to organise accommodation at the Coylumbridge, there’s posh for you! So much so that one distinguished member was refused access to the restaurant until he had borrowed a tie and our coach driver on asking for tea after dinner was told “we only serve coffee after dinner”! Also at one time we used to enter teams into the Northwest Ski Federation races which were held at Cairngorm or Nevis Range.

The problem with organising trips to Scotland in advance was that you couldn’t guarantee the conditions. More recently since retiring I have found that by leaving it to the last minute you can get some really good skiing. Also there is much more piste grooming and snow making.

However with the popularity of the club’s holidays abroad few members venture north to get their snow fix these days.

There is a lot more I could have written but I hope this has given a flavour of the club’s activities in the past.