To think of Cardiff Snowsports as just a social club would be like dismissing the Winter Olympics as a big skiing event.
“The Winter Olympics is great for us – it shows people that there is a serious sporting element to skiing and snowboarding,” explained President Sam Goodenough, a third-year engineering student.
While Snowsports is famous for its social scene and its large numbers (around 300 full-time members, the AU’s biggest club), the core team train as hard as any other club you’d wish to mention.
Many members of Snowsports are very accomplished skiers already but, just as importantly, all levels are welcome to train.
“We have beginner sessions on a Monday, where a total newcomer can book a block of lessons for a semester,” said Goodenough.“The cost is around £30, which is an absolute fraction of the price you’d pay in, say, the Alps.”
What’s more, the majority of instructors are qualified, fellow students.“On our trips, total beginners are welcome and can learn when they’re there. Our aim is to always be as inclusive as we can.”
Talking of the trip, the ski expedition to various parts of Europe is one of the biggest features of life as a Snowsport member.
“With university fees going up, we’ve had a slight drop in numbers, but they are still high and we had the largest social ever at the start of the year with 430 people attending.” Not to mention 380 people going on the Christmas trip to Alp d’Huez in France.
Another important date in the Snowsport year is the annual trip to Edinburgh for the British University Dry Slope (BUDS) weekend, a competition that attracts 80 universities from across the UK.
“We have ‘duals’ where skiers ski side-by-side in a knockout competition. Then there’s the more freestyle event with all the tricks and flicks. We take as many spectators as competitors; it’s a brilliant all-round weekend.”
And, of course, there’s the matter of the Easter trip to Les Arcs near the the French-Italian border. With 100 keen snow enthusiasts already signed up, it promises to be the biggest Easter trip ever.
An exciting development this year has been the freestyle team, who aim to combine blistering speed with grace and poise, a fact highlighted that the team train at a gymnastics centre. Training also takes place in Fairwater, a five-minute drive from Talybont.
Furthermore, a potential ground-breaking development could be in place for 2016. “I’ll be long gone by then! But we hope to be able to use the new snowdome”, enthused Goodenough.
“It could lead to students choosing to come to Cardiff because of the new snowdome. It would be massive for the club.”
The new construction in Cardiff Bay’s International Sports Village would allow the club to be the jewel in the Athletic Union’s crown.
At the moment, snowsports offer skiing and snowboarding, but the new £16m facility could mean an expansion into many sports that we are currently seeing in Sochi.
Looking to the future, there’s plenty in the pipeline. There’s indoor racing in Milton Keynes and Hemel Hempstead as part of BUISC (British University Indoor Snowsport Competition), and club development meetings with the AU.
But with a helpful nudge from the Winter Olympics, there’s hope that Snowsports will be given a bit more gravitas, with all events included in the full BUCS competition, rather than simply a few affiliated events with British University Snowsport Council.
“Lastly, my favourite thing about our club is the socials. We’re an inclusive, friendly bunch, with over 500 members in total. We have music acts, movie nights – there’s something for everyone.”