Two-time Olympian Jamie Nicholls has paid tribute to vital local facilities such as Halifax Ski Slope for their key role in providing a platform for those inspired by the Winter Olympic Games to give snowsports a go.
The Yorkshire venue has become a hotbed of snowsport talent in recent years, with Beijing 2022 stars Katie Ormerod and Katie Summerhayes both training at the slope in their early careers.
Snowsports are so much more accessible than people may think, with many of the 200-plus clubs and facilities across the UK funded by The National Lottery.
And speaking at Halifax Ski Slope in support of Winter Olympic athletes and to celebrate National Lottery players’ vital role in funding British talent, snowboard star Nicholls believes the facilities are vital in a country that does not boast as many natural winter venues as some of its Olympic rivals.
The 28-year-old, who himself grew up on the dry slopes of Yorkshire and competed at Sochi 2014 and PyeongChang 2018, said: “They’re very important, and they are all dotted around the country.
“You only need to go on Google and search ‘my nearest slope to snowboard’ and I’m sure there’s one not too far away, whether that’s an indoor place or a dry slope.
“We’ve got The National Lottery doing an amazing job at funding these places and making sure the facilities are kept up to scratch and kept going. It’s there for people to get into.
“Snowsports have really kicked off in the UK. For a place without snow it’s amazing and we’ve got such a good group of athletes at the Olympics currently. I’d love to see that keep going.
“I want to be on the sofa when I’m retired and old, still looking back and thinking what we started is still going, and I’ll still be able to watch future Olympians who have started on dry slopes and indoor snow domes. That would be amazing.”
Together, The National Lottery and government have invested £32million into British Olympic and Paralympic winter athletes and sports for Beijing, allowing Team GB and ParalympicsGB’s dedicated and passionate athletes to achieve their dreams of representing the nation.
And people may not realize that Team GB and ParalympicsGB winter athletes come from a wide range of backgrounds, starting their journey at local National Lottery-funded facilities across the UK, just like the one in Halifax.
The dry slope has nurtured talents such as Nicholls, Summerhayes and Ormerod – Nicholls’ cousin – while James Woods also started his career in nearby Sheffield.
Nicholls believes the group of snowboarders the region has produced is particularly special considering it was passion, not the Olympic dream, that first inspired them.
He added: “It has a lot to do with the facilities that we’ve got in Yorkshire.
“We’ve got Halifax Ski Slope, which is where me and Katie came from and then you’ve got Sheffield, which was an amazing slope and wasn’t too far from Halifax either. We’ve got amazing athletes that have come from there.
“I don’t think we’re all focused on going to the Olympics. We were riding and enjoying it and it was a passion for all of us. The Olympics came about and it naturally fell into place that we’d all give it a try and try and go there – and we’ve all been.
“These facilities are open – you can go and ride there whenever you want. The beauty of Halifax, for example, is that there is always a permanent jump there.
“That’s why I got so good, because I just rode every single night seven nights a week, for pretty much my whole childhood.”
The National Lottery raises millions of pounds for elite and grassroots community sport which helps British athletes achieve their dreams of representing the nation at the Olympics and Paralympics and also provides essential community sports facilities all across the UK, getting more people active.
Very few people will be as proud to see the likes of Ormerod and Summerhayes competing at the Winter Olympics as Wayne Taylor, a long-time coach at the Halifax Ski Slope.
Taylor, 47, coached several Team GB stars as juniors and admits he was thrilled to see some of them competing on the world stage.
He said: “I’m really chuffed about it all. It puts a real glow on your face to know that these kids come from normal backgrounds. They come and ride here nearly every day, they get good enough and now they’re Olympians traveling the world. What an effort!
“I think now all these kids are watching the Olympics and seeing all these people from normal backgrounds have gone to that level, they should get down to their local sporting facilities. The more you do something, the better you’ll get, and who knows where it will take you.
“National Lottery funding has been crucial. We couldn’t have done this without National Lottery players.”
A second Games in less than a year is a fantastic opportunity to see our Olympic and Paralympic athletes inspire us on the world stage – this time, the dramatic and thrilling Winter Games in Beijing.
Among those in action on the slope today was 13-year-old William Norris, who started skiing aged three and is hugely inspired by those who have stepped on the slope before him.
“I ski and I’ve been skiing for the last ten years.” he said.
“Throughout the past decade I’ve really enjoyed the sport. It’s really fun and today feels great. Loads of Team GB Olympians grew up here. They inspire me a lot as I can take stuff from their tricks and improve stuff with my skiing.
“I’d love to go to the Olympics one day.”
National Lottery players are one of the biggest supporters of Team GB and ParalympicsGB winter athletes and raise more than £30 million each week for good causes including grassroots and elite sport. Discover the positive impact playing The National Lottery has at www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk and get involved by using the hashtag: #TNLAthletes