(Picture: Fred Pontin cuts the ribbon to open the slope with members of the British Ski Team, Swiss Ski Instructors and Torquay’s enthusiastic skiers watching).
The fifth of October 2013 is an auspicious day in British skiing as it marks 50 years since the first permanent dry ski slope in the country was installed, at Barton Hall, Torquay and it’s still being used today.
The first of more than 120 such slopes to open in Britain, of which around half remain, with many hundreds more subsequently opening (and continuing to open) around the world, the Torquay slope is operated by the Torquay Alpine Ski Club, now one of the oldest in the country.
Over the years dry slopes have made a huge contribution to the British love affair with winter sports, and hundreds of thousands, perhaps over a million British people have learnt to ski on these slopes over the last 50 years. Most of the current British ski team started out on Dry Slopes.
The idea for the Torquay slope was conceived by a group of local enthusiasts aided by the Central Council for Physical Recreation (CCPR), who persuaded Fred Pontin (later Sir Fred) to set up the slope at his Barton Hall holiday camp in Torquay.
There was a grand opening ceremony at the slope which included demonstration of skiing by members of the British Ski Team and European Ski Instructors from the Swiss Resort of Champery.
The Torquay Alpine Ski Club celebrates the anniversary with a dinner at the Grand Hotel, Torquay with Olympic and World Cup Ski Racer Chemmy Alcott and Olympic Ski Jumper “Eddie the Eagle” Edwards as guests of honour tomorrow, 5th October.
“The opening of the first permanent dry ski slope in 1963 is a major milestone in British Skiing and marks the first time that skiing became widely accessible,” said Tim Fawke, CEO of Snowsport England, “Since then hundreds of thousands of people have learnt ski on these types of slope and it all started with Torquay slope and the club that operates it. The heart of our sport in the UK is based around clubs and it’s great to know that this club is still going strong after 50 years.”
The slope still uses the original design of matting (known as Dendix), which was designed in Great Britain and is manufactured in Chepstow, Wales.