On Friday December 15, 589 Uni of and Sheffield Hallam Students made the 24-hour coach journey to the French Alps before arriving in the world famous Ski and Snowboard resort of Val d’Isere for the 8th Ashes to Alps Snowsports Varsity competition.
The Ashes to Alps holiday has a history and huge significance for the snow sports community in Sheffield. Sheffield used to be home to the biggest artificial ski slope in Europe. Birthing many of our international treasures in British snow sports, it was the training grounds for the Yorkshire Freestyle Squad, teaching the likes of professional freestyle skiers such as James ‘Woodsy’ and Katie Summerhayes, and some favourite boarders of mine:Zoe Gillings and Jamie Nicholls. The slope tragically burnt down in 2012, and subsequently has been abandoned ever since. Winter Varsity would boast 2,000 student spectators at its peak when held at the slope. The committee from Hallam and Uni of at the time had the passion and idea to not be defeated and ‘rise up from the ashes’. Thereby continuing to keep the snow sports competition alive in the alps, there saw the beginning of ‘Ashes to Alps Winter Varsity Trip’.
We hit the jackpot with the weather this year in Val d’Isere. With the last two years being forced to host half the competition at our local indoor Castleford ski slope due to lack of snow, this year every day we were greeted with fresh snow and blue skies. There was no exception for the afternoon of Tuesday 19, where the Varsity Ski and Snowboard racing was to take place. The first points of the annual Varsity competition were up for grabs and all the competitors were feeling the pressure. The Ski race and Snowboard race are worth one point each. The final is done on a dual slalom course and it is the best of three races that determines the score. First up was the snowboard race. Being a snowboarder myself I felt the stakes were even higher. Going home without a win was not an option. The Uni of team boarded exceptionally after facing some seriously tough competition from Hallam. The first team was made up of Millie Shilito, Flo Brookes, Oscar Lewis and Joe Hughes. We won the first two races and so the fate of the first varsity point for 2018 was sealed with a Uni of win.
Next up was the Ski race. Both teams raced extremely well with the first race going to Hallam. The next race then saw many tumbles down the icy red run course, increasing the tension of the race. Uni of managed to win by a matter of metres, and then it was all down to the third race. All the racers showed incredible skill and determination, however Hallam just managed to take the win. Congratulations to the first team; Kai Hayes, Ali Miles, Max Pearce, Katy Jackson, and Lewis Garland. Kai Haynes, Ski race captain, said: “Although the end result might not have been what we were hoping for in the ski racing, it was a really close and exciting race that was a lot of fun to be a part of. Everyone on both teams skied great, so well done to all, and congratulations to Hallam for getting the win!”
Ending the racing 1-1 put even more pressure on to the Snowboard and Ski Clubs in the Freestyle competition that took place on the morning of Thursday December 21. The sun was shining and the Val d’Isere Park jumps and features were freshly groomed ready for the competition. After two hours of jumps, front flips, back flips, grabs and spins the judges had made their decision. Announcing the podium winners, starting with female snowboarding, the judges were impressed by second year Millie Shilito’s style and grabs on the large Jumps. Next up was the freestyle skier Lucy Bradbury, who pushed the standard to new heights after landing 360’s on the large jumps. This sealed 0.5 points each resulting in 1 point awarded to Uni of, proving that #thesegirlscan.
The male boarding point showed great competition with Hallam putting forward high standards, however they were not enough to put fresher Chris Abad off his game as he was landing huge 360s on the big jumps with ease and style claiming the next half point for Uni of. Lastly the male ski standard was pushed to new heights from American student Nik Lampard, landing a cork 920 in the final and sealing the fate of the final half point in the freestyle competition. This meant a morning of clean sweeps on the podium for Uni of, and the overall Winter Varsity score 3-1 in favour of the Black and Golds.
Alex Tapply, Snowboarding Club President, said: “It was awesome to see all the training sessions from this year pay off with another clean sweep for SUSC taking both points and all but one podium spot, as well as some brand new competitors going into 2018”.
Alex Glasse, Ski Club President, added: “It was great to get everyone involved, no matter what level they are and ending up with a result we can all be proud of to kick off varsity”.
A huge thank you and well done to SUSC and Sheffski for not only giving us a head start in Varsity but all the hard work and organisation that goes into the Holidays. Holiday reps and presidents from both clubs, Alex Tapply, Alex Glasse, Nick Hare and Will May, alongside the Hallam Shu Snow committee, have worked tirelessly since June 2017 to organise the trip and create such an unforgettable experience for 589 students. If you missed out and want to try skiing or snowboarding there are bi-weekly trips to the indoor slope and there is an Easter trip to the Alps in March. I speak from personal experience when I say that joining the Snowboarding club was the best decision I made at Uni.
Now we look forward to the rest of Varsity and are more motivated than ever to keep that trophy Black and Gold.