Words by Milo McSenderson
The UK is not known for its ski resorts and massive mountain ranges, yet it has one of the proudest ski scenes of any nation I know. The beating heart of the UK ski scene can be found in big fridges, dry slopes dotted around and the mountains of Scotland. There’s even a peak district ski club for when the weather permits. That being said, I was relatively unaware of how vibrant the scene was, how much progression could be made with fast freestyle laps, or how the Scottish winter would battle enough to harden the toughest guy for skiing anywhere in the world. I wish I could tell you I’ve always known about the hidden nooks and crannies that have birthed some truly rad British skiers but it was only through the uni ski scene that I truly understood the scope of what we had to offer in these parts. Here at AfterJam we wanted to make sure nobody thinks that skiing is purely for one of the weeks in winter and actually the best place for year-round skiing is the UK… shhhh don’t tell the others or our fridges will be full! Anyway, here’s a round-up of all the places you can go riding after Brexit means you need a visa to go anywhere.
Without further ado, let's get to the nitty gritty, the down and dirty details of jumps and rails and freestyle nights. So buckle up, and get out a map (or your favourite internet powered equivalent) and find your nearest spot for stunts!
Snowdomes are the home of real-fake snow. Artificially manufactured in a big fridge, but well-groomed for that piste practice and well-shaped for stunts. Snowdomes have long provided an excellent spot for beginner, intermediate and advanced skiers to come and slide for the first time or hone their craft.
To kick things off we’re gonna talk about Snozone in Milton Keynes, one of the OGs of the big fridge freestyle world and still going strong. Known for building their features big and having some epic rails to chuck out it’s no surprise this spot in the heart of the thriving metropolis of Milton Keynes has produced some serious talent and pulls rad riders from all over to its freestyle nights. Mason Ferebee, AJ rider and frontflip extraordinaire, is often found spinning laps through the parks of the MK dome. Dialling those pretzels and taking requests (known for his regular insta banger segments) for all sorts of tech wizardry. His insta is always banging with clips from this epic spot. The future of GB Snowsports, Palmer Parish is can also be found learning from the best and sending real big for a littl’un.
Hemel Hempstead holds down the stunt spot on the outskirts of the capital. Bringing in the crème de la crème from all parts. Another spot with an excellent shapers crew that bangs out sick parks week on week. Burton rider Max Wittrick frequents Hemel as a local who dialled the dark arts of the sideways stunts at this spot. Marcus Kleveland and Jamie Nicholls have also been known to show up and blow minds with his magic here once or twice.
Snowcentre in Glasgow – “The Swamp” – is home to the steeziest Scottish mofo around. “Killamuffin”, otherwise known as, Mark Donnelly. Bringing all the steeze and creativity of B&E to a the Snowcentre (and sometimes the streets) in Glasgow makes takes this spot high on our list of places to check out. With rad shapers and a great vibe Scottish snowdomes are in good hands. Mark’s 2018 Planks Grassroots Edit showcases the best of the features and his style – with that little taste of street thrown in. Follow @dassswamp for some of the coldest content to come out of the Glaswegian mega fridge.
Tamworth Tuesdays have made a name for themselves with riders like Tom Greenway, Tyler Nicholls-Stubbington, Jamie Yates, and Harry Winnard keeping the heat on full. A great spot for rail rats to enjoy and the evidence is there to prove it. Tech oozes from the edits from the likes of Greenway and Tyler and it’s not surprise. With a fast rope tow and features in abundance – it even has a QP at the end. This is a great spot for some power laps.
Dry slopes make up a huge sector of the UK ski scene. Most of the dry slopes are older than the big fridges, less high tech involved, and for that reason have been the birth of the OGs of British Dry slope riding. Many GB Olympians have come from the humble turf of dry slope send. Dry slopes however are a cruel mistress at times, I’ve been left hobbling after many a session. The most common compounds used are Dendex (Sendex) or Snowflex. While Snowflex is more forgiving, Dendex is faster and the opposite of forgiving. Both have their pros and cons but as always, send at your own risk!
A conversation about dryslopes has to be started [does it?] off by talking about the Stoke Massive YO! Row Emery’s stomping ground and birthplace (not literally) of steeze machine Justin Taylor-Tipton. For years Row – given free reign over park plans – has been putting out weird and whacky rail set ups in this epicentre of UK rail send. A recently renovated jump set up breathes new life into this old dog and means we’ve got many more years of features to front swap on from Mt. Stoke. Harry Shaw, another fresh addition to the AJ Collective, has been crushing in at Stoke for many years too. Keep your eyes on the edits coming out of here, it’s gotta be time for another "Black Ice" eh Row?
Warmwell holds down the South West, with an awesome bundle of features. Snowflex all over with a beauty of a kicker with a cannon rail to the right hand side of it. Topped off with a quarter pipe at the bottom. Plenty of other rail and box set ups are available making this slope a really well rounded spot for a session. Frequented by Billy Morgan, GB Olympic Medalist, this has the stamp of approval from some of the best.
Bearsden (beyond the wall) has also sprouted some of the finest UK talent. Namely the McCormicks, who have made Bearsden their stomping ground for many years now and the creators of the Go Big or Go Home competition. The recap edit from 2018 (can you spot the two current AJ riders?) showcases the jump in all its glory. Offering a beauty of a take off and good hang time this is a rad spot to dial those axes. Bearsden has been a hive of activity for UK skiing for some time.
Honourable mentions go to spots such as Halifax, home to one of the finest kickers Yorkshire has to offer and in turn has offered up some serious talent including the likes of Tyler Harding, Jamie Nichols and Katie Ormerod. Get to this spot for a sunset session and you can really enjoy the views while ya send. Aberdeen has birthed some talent, such a Rob Wilkinson who broke Tyler Harding’s record for the highest air out of an artificial quarterpipe (obscure knowledge bomb for you), at Aberdeen. Rob has some serious talent. Here’s a little gem with some OG steeze from this Scottish spot. And we can’t talk about dryslopes without mentioning Gloucester and the infamous AfterJAM, the uk’s biggest freestyle competition.
Scotland (Actual Mountains)
The UK still boasts real mountains, where real snow falls from the actual sky. The Scottish mountains offer a huge range of riding for those willing to brave the elements. They say that if you learn to ski in Scotland you can ski anywhere. Picture the inside of a ping pong ball, but with less wind protection. Anyway, that doesn’t make it any less rad, just dress for it – it’s always the weather for an extra layer.
All three mountain resorts are well serviced by their respective park crews. With Cairngorm probably having the most consistent builds, and some burly features. Although Cairngorm’s funicular has been out of action for a few years now there are whispers on the rumour mill that suggest it may be up and running soon. Cairngorm is a quiet and beautiful spot to ski and is nestled in the picturesque Aviemore national park. I had my last day of this shortened season there and it was breathtaking, or just very cold. One not to miss!
Nevis Range sits in the shadow of Ben Nevis, the UKs highest mountain and is a stones throw from Fort William on the West Coast of Scotland. Nevis Range has a huge amount to offer with skiing up to 1190m on the mountain of Aonach Mor with a monstrous amount of lift accessed backcountry. This definitely hits all the spots for your backcountry minded individuals. The park crew still keeps it dialled as with all the mountain resorts in Scotland. A park situated high up the mountain lends itself to more icy conditions but you’ve got to take the rough with the smooth.
Glencoe is the oldest skiing spot the Scots have to offer – the first overhead ski lift going up in 1956 on Meall A’Bhuiridh. It’s not the biggest area on offer but it is the most stunning. Situated in an area of outstanding national beauty it’s definitely worth checking out. The whole surrounding area is just as good as the turns to be made on the hill. Offering 364 days of operation too for those with a mountain bike inclination (Nevis Range and Cairngorm also offer an abundance of summertime activities if you swing that way).
These Scottish resorts really add up to a spectacular trifecta of send. If you’re prepared to battle some weather, or make a last-minute trip when Ullr graces the Scottish mountains with his hand, or beard or whatever. You can really be in for a real treat. Anyone down for a roadtrip?
So there ya have it! Who said you had to go abroad to ski… not us. There’s so many gosh darn fantastic options to strap on and slide. No excuses. It’s no wonder the UK produces some of the most hard working and creative talent in skiing. We work with what we’ve got and we have done for years. The future is bright for UK talent and the history longer and richer than we had time for here. Until next time we catch ya in a fridge, on a dryslope covered hill or the windy, icy, wilderness of the mountains of Scotland.