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Top UK university snowsports clubs

22nd July 2016 | Monica Adorno

Glasgow University Snowsports Club - ©GUSSC

Glasgow University Snowsports Club

Copyright: GUSSC

As epic off-piste as they are on it, university snowsports clubs are hands down one of the most exciting clubs at the SU and one of the most rewarding to join. Nowhere else will you find quite the same mix of talent, reckless enthusiasm, or capacity for alcohol fuelled debauchery. And no other club has the same sort of mass appeal; Bristol Uni currently has an almighty 900 members while Edinburgh has pulled in 700. Proactive and deeply passionate about everything snow-related the clubs’ committees plan everything from multiple trips abroad, competitions and sweet prize giveaways, weekly rec sessions, not to mention booze soaked socials . . .

National calendar highlights include BUDS, a mad weekender of a party and the biggest dryslope event in the world, which 70 universities partake in, and the aptly named Main Event; a bigger and badder version spread over seven days at a European resort during which students suffer irrevocable kidney damage. I should know. I went twice.

OnTheSnow wanted to find out what makes snowsports clubs unique and which ones are at the top of their game so we tracked down Club Chairs and asked them to tell us. We also sought Shell Quaille’s expert opinion. Shell is the Head of Competitions at BUSC which stands for the British University Snowsports Council and is made up of ex-committee members. They oversee many of the major university snowsports competitions such as BUDS and the MAIN EVENT.

OnTheSnow's Monica Adorno (centre) in her university heyday - ©Monica Adorno

OnTheSnow's Monica Adorno (centre) in her university heyday

Copyright: Monica Adorno

Here is our rundown of the highest performing clubs in the country. Go hard or go home right?

Loughborough University

The UK’s number one sporting university is also a winner when it comes to snowsports and, according to Shell, Loughborough Sno is one of the clubs that has stood out over recent years. We caught up with Club Chair Matt Tooth to find out why.

What makes Loughborough stand out?

Loughborough Sno is particularly special in the broad spectrum of what we do for our members. We have one of the only locally funded schemes that enables complete beginners to learn to ski or snowboard from scratch at a really, really low cost.

Alongside this we have a high level of training for our competitive members with several qualified coaches on hand. This covers both racing of skiers and snowboarders, as well as freestyle, who also have access to the gymnasium with trampoline foam pits for safe practice of those progressive tricks! All this skiing and boarding and then there are our socials. The biggest and best on campus, we see over a hundred people a time turn out to join in our fun and antics.

What about the facilities?

Our facilities vary depending on what we are doing. For beginners and recreational goers we often use Tamworth indoor centre as it’s close, provides us with good rates and is perfect for what we want. For our competitors we train at Stoke dryslope using gates and our own coaches who provide improving techniques and exercises. The freestylers, as you would imagine, do their own thing. They go where the set ups are best, but often join us at stoke for the freestyle side of the dryslope. We also have access to our world-class gymnasiums for practicing those hard-to-get tricks, all assisted by top gymnast coaches.

The team’s elite athletes have access to Loughborough’s state of the art gym ‘BASE’ and the opportunity to train alongside the club’s sponsor, Obergurgl, prior to the British University Snowsports Championships.

How has the club enhanced your university experience?

The club is the biggest part of my uni experience. Having joined in my first year, I have spent the last three on committee and loving every minute of it! So much snowboarding, and great like-minded people all having a good time.

Sum it up in three words?

Pretty tough one that, errmm, 'who are Brumski?' haha 'makes snowsports addictive' - possibly the only way I can describe our club in three words.

Loughborough Uni slalom - ©Tom Robertson

Loughborough Uni slalom

Copyright: Tom Robertson

The Scottish Clubs

The Scottish clubs have the privilege of having snow on their doorstep. Unsurprisingly they’re an impressive bunch. Here’s our pick of the Scottish clubs.

Edinburgh Napier University

We caught up with Club Chair Euan Dood to find out why the three times BUDS champions should take the title of best snowsports club.

What’s special about Edinburgh Napier?

Compared to other university snowsports clubs, we’re a very close-knit club and we are all best mates and live with each other. Even when there isn't a social on, we still just go out with each other, which is not something you see with the larger clubs. Also, our accomplishments against much larger universities on competition day are insane, with three BUDS (British) championships in a row under our belts with only 100 members.

How has the club enhanced your university experience?

NUSC and snowsports in general has changed my life completely since coming to university. I had never even been on a board before my 1st year and now it’s all I can think about (haha). It’s my release, my sport, my job as committee and most importantly my social life, all rolled into one. Without NUSC my university life would be extremely boring, fact. 

What do you offer beginners?

Freshers make up a huge portion of our members and it is really important to get them fixed up with beginner lessons, which we provide, to get the basics on the skis/board, but we all know where the real training happens, the bar!

Who are your rivals?

There has always been strong rivalry between NUSC and EUSSC (Edinburgh University). Even though they outnumber us massively we still hold our own in all aspects, on and off the slope. It’s definitely quality over quantity. In the past few years we have come together to plan communal events where there is a somewhat friendly atmosphere with some underlying rivalry. It is definitely a friendly rivalry, but everyone knows who the superior club is right?

Sum it up in three words?

Napier Drinking Club/Gav Getting Naked

Edinburgh indoor freestyle session - ©Edinburgh Uni

Edinburgh indoor freestyle session

Copyright: Edinburgh Uni

Edinburgh University

Edinburgh’s Christmas trip sold out faster than Glasto tickets, with 500 places snapped up in a record 18 minutes. As for competing, “Edinburgh own all events on snow”, says Shell Quaille. We grilled committee members Gavin McQueen and Ed Power to find out what makes them so unbeatable.

What makes Edinburgh unique?

Gavin: We’re the largest university snowsports club in Scotland and out of all the universities in the UK, I think, we manage to get the most amount of skiing done! Being situated up in Scotland gives us countless opportunities to get out at the weekends and up to the highlands. Our Club has seen an ever-growing number of members interested in backcountry skiing, so we are offering other activities such as avalanche training workshops, which have been incredibly popular.

Ed: We want to give our members the opportunity to learn some proper mountain craft through courses that we run. This is an area we are currently expanding. There is also a great community spirit in the club where we try to include people of all abilities and just get them to be passionate about the sport, no mean feat when your membership tops 700.

Gavin: Over the last couple of years, EUSSC has developed its own rental shop, giving our members brand new kit to play with, at an unbelievably good price.

The club’s local slope happens to be Europe’s longest dryslope. This allows our competitors and people learning to ski/board, to train at least once a week. This, combined with many trips to the indoor slope at Xscape Glasgow may have something to do with us winning BUSC this year!  

Any traditions or rituals you wish to share?

Ed: Where to start! This is a censored list; kilt/naked skiing, 2 is the minimum, forks, and a new addition to our repertoire is the pre-BUDS social which needs to be seen to be believed.

Gavin: Last week we had our annual Fresher rep election. This is where we select four freshers to join our committee team. So there is the usual ski-boot pints and debauchery that follows. We also have our annual PUBSKI which takes 450-500 students round the drinking holes of Edinburgh on probably what is the biggest pub crawl the city sees.

Ski-boot pints at Edinburgh's Fresher Rep - ©Edinburgh Uni

Ski-boot pints at Edinburgh's Fresher Rep

Copyright: Edinburgh Uni

What is “2 is the minimum” and “forks”?

Ed: Unfortunately those are club secrets; you'll have to come on one of our trips to find out.

Did you consider the club’s reputation before you decided on a university?

Gavin: I had no idea how big university snowsports was until I went on the first PUBSKI night back in my first year. It changed my life.

Where do you train?

Ed: We have the Hillend dryslope and Logy gym (trampolines and foam pits for learning tricks and building confidence) just outside Edinburgh as well as Bearsden dryslope (with a big jump) and Snow Factor (indoor snow dome) both in Glasgow. There are five university competitions over the year that we attend at Scottish and British levels.

Sounds impressive. Is there something for newbies?

Ed: Absolutely, we run three sets of programmes over the year. There’s one at Hillend, one at Snow Factor and one on our Christmas trip to the Alps.

Edinburgh's Big Weekend - ©Edinburgh Uni

Edinburgh's Big Weekend

Copyright: Edinburgh Uni

How has the club enhanced your university experience?

Gavin: From joining, you instantly have another 40+ new mates that are all similarly minded, and are out to have a sick time whatever they are doing.

Ed: Untold amounts. When I wasn’t on committee it was always where I went to have a good time and meet like-minded proactive people. Being on committee as treasurer and president has been a chance to learn an enormous amount of practical and managerial skills. Couldn’t ask for better training alongside your degree.

Who are your rivals? 

Ed: Tough one to call really, there’s an amazingly high standard of competition in uni snow sports so I guess anyone who thinks they’re up to the task!

Which uni club has rubbish chat? And the wittiest?

Ed: SCUM (Manchester University) have rubbish chat. The wittiest, probably Manchester Met’s ‘I’d rather be a tampon than in SCUM’ has got to clinch it for me, probably the best chant I’ve ever heard.

Lovely.

Sum it up in three words?

Gavin: Winning, dynamic, inclusive.

Glasgow University

Gemma Smith is president of Glasgow’s 500-strong team of skiers and shredders.

Being in Glasgow gives them easy access to some top-notch facilities such as Bearsden, the Glasgow Ski and Snowboard Centre, and Xscape.

What’s the most important aspect of the club?

Our annual ski trip is what makes GUSSC so well known amongst Glasgow Uni students. We try to go to a different resort each year and last year took 368 skiers, snowboarders and party-ers to Val Thorens which was a hugely successful trip. This year GUSSC takes on Tignes with a massive 460 GUSSC members set to hit the slopes in early January! With a fresh dump of snow landing in Tignes just last week, our trippers are already counting down the days to get out to the Alps.

Sounds epic. What makes the club stand out?

We have the most fun. Whether our members are at lessons, training for a competition, on a trip up North to sample some of Scotland's skiing or out in the Alps, our club is full of the most friendly and sociable people you'll meet at university.

GUSSC celebrating - ©GUSSC

GUSSC celebrating

Copyright: GUSSC

Is there something for newbies?

Yes! We run lessons both before and after Christmas at a discounted rate which are always popular with complete beginners and are a great way to get some practice before the annual trip to the Alps. Being in Glasgow is great for us as it makes it easy for us to run lessons, from beginner to advanced, and hold regular training sessions for our competitors.

Our main competitions are the Scottish and British Dry Slope Championships and the Indoor Championships. We also compete on a smaller scale such as the Bearsden League.

Any traditions or rituals you wish to share?

Three words – Cheese and Wine. This is our biggest and best social of the year, and isn't quite as classy as it sounds. With plenty of wine and a little cheese, tonnes of ace prizes from our sponsors including a pair of skis, snowboard, and most importantly a free place on our renowned ski trip, it's a huge night in our social calendar. Not only that, we announce the location of the trip on the night and booking opens at midnight too! This year we had a record 547 students attending!

We run socials throughout the year including pub golf (dressing up in the finest golf attire is essential), a subcrawl of Glasgow's "Clockwork Orange" and our AGM during which the new committee for the following year is elected.

Sum it up in three words?

Steazy peasy glasweegy

Heriot Watt University

Heriot Watt are consistently ranked in the league tables which is no surprise considering that this is the alma mata of pro snowboarder Kyle Wise. Wise is currently on the Great Britain Boardercross team. Committee member Ben Gore fills us in on Heriott Watt’s social and inclusive vibe.

What makes Heriot Watt unique?

The thing that makes our club great is that anybody can join, and we always make a huge effort to include everyone in the chat!

Our club’s chant is "YOU WATT", repeated to infinity. Probably our most

infamous event of the year is our annual Aviemore trip: 60 students, 1 hostel and as much alcohol as we can carry.

Ski time with Heriot Watt - ©HWSSC

Ski time with Heriot Watt

Copyright: HWSSC

Where do you train?

We ride either at Hillend, our local dryslope (just down the road from us), Xscape through in Glasgow or occasionally Bearsden dryslope. We also take buses to the Scottish resorts whenever possible.

We compete in SUDS and BUDS, BUISC, and Granite City, up in Aberdeen. Thanks to GB's Kyle Wise, and Murray Koller (name to watch), we've always secured podium places in snowboarding at all British events.

How has the club enhanced your university experience?

Snowsports is easily the funniest thing at uni, and it’s the thought of our annual Christmas trip that gets most of our members through their exams!

Who are your rivals?

I'm not sure if we have a rival, but if I had to choose I'd maybe say Napier or Edinburgh Uni. And the worst chat? Glasgow Cali. They never show up to anything!

Sum it up in three words?

Snow drink snow.

Dublin City University

It probably has something to do with being in Ireland and the lack of snow or snow domes but OnTheSnow was still surprised to hear from DCU secretary Ciaran Martin that none of the committee were boarders or skiers before arriving at DCU. It speaks volumes about their commitment. Here’s what Ciaran had to say about the club:

What makes DCU unique?

Our club is based mainly around beginners. Other universities are definitely a lot more competitive than us but we focus on helping to get people into snowboarding or skiing and making sure they have fun doing it.

We do lessons every week and they always cater for beginners. When it gets into the 2nd semester (after the winter trip) we then generally do fewer beginner lessons and focus more on freestyle and race training for the inter-varsities which are a couple of weeks into the 2nd semester.

A lot of attention is drawn to our club at the freshers’ fair because of the shock factor of there actually being a snowsports club. Then once they get drawn in by curiosity, they drool at the prospect of going on a trip to the Alps in January with 270 other people.

How has the club enhanced your university experience?

It has enhanced my experience hugely. I often say that if it wasn’t for snowsports I would've dropped out since my engineering course is so boring but snowsports has always given me something to look forward to; dryslope training every week, socials, BUDS and of course the annual trip abroad.

Because of funding from the uni, it has made travelling and learning how to snowboard affordable for me and the rest of the club, there's no way I could afford it if I wasn’t at uni.

As well as it being affordable and having things to look forward to, the majority of my friends come from snowsports. A couple of us have even started up our own company because of our involvement with the club which deals in clothing specifically for snowsports; beanies and riding hoodies as well as custom orders for other uni clubs. We also put on a summer trip to Les Deux Alps through the company www.facebook.com/featureclothing.

Where do you train?

Facilities in Ireland are almost non-existent for snowsports. We have a dryslope about 30 minutes away from DCU which we go to every Tuesday. Our first few training sessions generally have about 60-70 people at them and we charge 15 euros which includes lessons, rental and transport. The uni subsidises that as it would normally cost 20 euros for the lessons and rental and about 5 for transport.

A small group usually heads up to the slope on Fridays as well where we are allowed to take out the features for freestyle . . . sometimes. Besides the dryslope, there is an indoor conveyor belt slope which is tiny and can barely fit three people on it.

Sounds brutal. How often do you compete?

We usually get about three boarders and one or two skiers to compete in BUDS for racing and have done decent enough with all competitors making it into the top 30 and some into the top 16. We also compete in Irish inter-varsities every year and came 2nd last year.

Which uni club has rubbish chat? And the wittiest?

Trinity are pretty much the ones to dislike. Their trip didn’t make the newspapers a few years ago for nothing. UCD are our rivals but in a much friendlier way. We sometimes even do socials with them because they know how to party right!

Sum it up in three words?

HOLY F****** S*** 

DCU Freshers' Fiar - ©DCU

DCU Freshers' Fiar

Copyright: DCU

Bristol University

With an enormous member base of over 900 students, Bristol can always make their presence felt and nowhere is that truer than at the Main Event where you’ll witness the spectacular sight of 900 drunk pandas. Club president, Tom Lambert, fills us in.

What makes Bristol stand out? 

This year we’re running a trip to Val T in April and taking away over 1200 Bristol students.

Nice. Where do you train?

The facilities are ok. We train over at Gloucester dryslope, at Hemel Snow dome and in the Alps. At uni we have gym sessions for bike conditioning, weights work in the Olympic weights room and Pilates in the studios of the uni gym. We compete almost every 3 weeks at dry slope and indoor events and compete in the Alps around Easter time.

Is there something for newbies?

We run beginner sessions every week at Gloucester dryslope and on trips we have beginner lessons.

How has the club enhanced your university experience?

The stuff I have done with the club has been a huge part of my uni life. I spend a lot of hours doing club stuff maybe even a bit more than my degree!

Sum it up in three words?

Crazy panda party

Sheffield University

Top performers Sheffski used to train weekly at the Sheffield Ski village until it burnt down in 2012. We caught up with club secretary Jonathan Field to find out if Sheffski are still on fire.

Where do you train?

We used to train weekly at the Sheffield Ski Village but things have changed a little! We now do fortnightly trips to Chill Factore in Manchester as well as taking our freestyle and race teams training at the nearby dryslopes in Swadlincote and Rossendale. 

What about competitions?

We compete in the Kings Races and consistently qualify for the finals down in London. Our main competition event of the year is our Winter Varsity Championships against Sheffield Hallam University and this year, for the first time ever, we are taking this event out to the Alps in January as part of our Winter Holiday to Alpe d'Huez.

Is there something for newbies?

All levels are welcome! We offer beginner lessons on our trips to Chill Factore as well as Race and Freestyle coaching from our GB Team members and qualified instructors.

How has the club enhanced your university experience?

Joining SheffSki has, by far, been the best decision of my uni life. I've met so many people and been on some amazing ski trips. I'd recommend joining their uni ski club to anyone; even if you've never skied before, uni is the time to start!

Sum it up in three words?

Boozy Skiing Fun

 

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