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Get onto the slopes with the Ski Club of Great Britain

James Gambrill, General Manager of the Ski Club of Great Britain, talks to Mark Hayhurst about the club’s past and how they help skiers of all abilities hit the slopes.

James Gambrill, General Manager of the Ski Club of Great Britain, talks to Mark Hayhurst about the club’s past and how they help skiers of all abilities hit the slopes.

The Ski Club of Great Britain has a 120-year-old history and is now the biggest ski club in the world. It provides ski holidays of a lifetime, holidays for skiers of all abilities and brings them together to hit the slopes.

It was set up in 1903 by 12 men who sat down to dinner at a fashionable restaurant in London (Cafe Royal) and decided to form a ski club. Their aim was to encourage other people to learn to ski, help members improve and take more enjoyment from their skiing while bringing together people interested in the sport.

And that ethos, over a century later, is what still drives the Ski Club of Great Britain today.

James said: “The Club started as a way of people who were embracing and interested in this new sport to help others get out there. It wasn’t easy to go skiing and get to the mountains, there were no real resorts and you had to navigate the Swiss mountain railways to ski. So, it was really a way of helping people do this when there wasn’t any particular route and it was a way of sharing knowledge.

“The Club then evolved into a kind of governing body, particularly for competitive snow sports. The first ever modern slalom was organised by the Ski Club in Mürren and because of that it became what GB Snowsports is today, a de facto governing body which selected the British team etc. Because everybody who was a racer was, effectively, members of the ski club.

“A lot of its task was getting people into skiing, introducing and promoting the sport. I guess, over time, what’s changed is that as those racing elements have become really big, as skiing has grown as a sport, then the Ski Club relinquished its control. Hence, we now have organisations like Snowsports England and GB Snowsports that have that particular focus.”

Ski Club of Great Britain

If you would like to know more about the history and evolution of the Ski Club of Great Britain then you can visit their website here.

But, in 2023, the Ski Club has grown far from its small beginnings and now has 18,000 members. However, it’s original aim still holds true and that is to get people out on the slopes and have fun as easily as possible.

James said: “Our core remit now as a club is to help skiers find other skiers to ski with. If you’re a skier, you want to ski with other people. Maybe you ski at a different level to your family, maybe your partner doesn’t ski, maybe you just want to do stuff that your partner doesn’t because you want to get into touring, off piste, competitive or whatever it is, we fulfil that need.

“We can introduce you to skiers who have a similar ability and who want to do the same kind of thing. And, critically, to give you the pathways to do that.”

One of the services that the Ski club offers, free of charge, is their Representatives (Reps) Programme. They have hundreds of Reps active in 24 resorts across Europe and North America.

A Ski Club Rep has no motive other than to ensure that members have the most enjoyable time possible, while promoting the principles of safe, responsible and enjoyable recreational skiing.

James continued: “I think the easiest way to think of Reps is like a club concierge. They’re based in a resort for members to contact when they are there. They will organise a social hour for all members and help them get in touch with other members to go skiing. If members want to book an instructor or a mountain guide, they’ll recommended them. They can recommend boot fitters, where to buy skis or which restaurants to go to.

“The Reps will also organise ski groups and get members of a similar ability together. And they’ll all go off skiing together with the Rep. But, they’re skiing as a member as part of the group. They’re not leading, guiding or instructing but they can give advice if a member wants it. They’re there to facilitate members to ski together. And that’s free at the point of service. So, once you’re a member, if you want to ski with a rep there’s never any additional charge, you just turn up and ski. You can pre-register on the website, but you can just turn up.

“The Reps also arrange a fun and varied weekly events plan, including lunch meet-ups and après drinks, as well as  ensuring members are aware of the fantastic range of Ski Club benefits and discounts.

“As far as the discounts’ programmes, with partners, goes we can, hopefully, in most cases save you money on things you want to do. You can save money on equipment, purchases or rentals. We’re working with as many resources as we can for lift passes, ski schools and transfer companies to help reduce the cost of skiing.”

SCGB 2

There are many benefits to being a member of the Ski Club of Great Britain, from arranging holidays with people of the same abilities to advice on how to improve your skiing technique through special events.

The Ski Club runs events with four-time winter Olympian and their Honorary President Chemmy Alcott. Their Ski with Chemmy days have become a cornerstone of their summer calendar, as it gives their members the chance to ski, getting tips and tricks from one of Britain’s all-time great skiers to keep their form in top shape throughout the off-season.
They look to run several Ski with Chemmy days throughout the summer at indoor snow-centres throughout the UK. Each event includes two hours skiing, joined by Chemmy and one of her hand-picked team of coaches, the opportunity to trial brand new kit from their partners and refreshments.

James added: “As a member, you can join one of the many events we run in in the UK with Chemmy and Warren Smith, one of Britain’s leading professional free skiers and an Internationally Qualified Performance Coach and Instructor, among others. There you can join a Ski Club-only session with other members and have that coaching in the UK.

“Also, you can go on any of our holidays. We run about 140 holidays a year under the Freshtracks banner, which are all grouped around ski standard. When you go on the holiday, you’re going to be with people who have a similar ability or within that sort of envelope, but also critically with a similar focus. So, it might be introductions to off piste, maybe a ski touring or a piste improvements trip. So, it’s a little bit different to just going on a set course because you know that you can go with other people who will have similar ability levels and similar outlooks to what you want to do.”

The Ski Club also runs an Instructor Led Guiding Service in seven resorts – six in France and Verbier in Switzerland – powered by New Generation Ski and Snowboard School, alongside a handful of trusted independent instructors, available at a reduced rate for members.

James said: “The Instructor Led Guiding says what it is. It’s a guiding  programme run by instructors. So, it’s different to a lesson. They can teach, or give tips, if you’re struggling but it’s not designed to be a lesson. It’s designed to be an experience level day which is sold at a 50 per cent discount to members. A significant cost saving for members.”

The Ski Club can also offer varying levels of insurance for members’ holidays. But, their main purposes is to get people out on the slopes skiing and, above all, having fun.

James concluded: “We want to improve our members’ skiing experience, offering advice and help to improve techniques, fitness, background information, preparation and, also, save money with our discount programme and create a recreational pathway for skiers.”

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