It’s time to capitalise on the medals won at Sochi while enthusiasm for winter sports is high
So what was your favourite snowsliding moment from this year’s Winter Olympics? Watching a tearful Jenny Jones celebrating with her parents after winning bronze in the women’s slopestyle snowboarding? Or seeing Sweden’s Henrik Harlaut getting spectacularly tangled up in his trousers while corkscrewing through the air in the skiing version of the same event?
The skiing and snowboarding competitions in Sochi certainly punched well above their weight in terms of thrills and spills, and the after-effects are already being felt here in the UK, with various snowsports organisations reporting dramatic spikes in interest.
Even before the games had finished, the Ski Club of Great Britain claimed its phones were “buzzing with inquiries” from people wanting to try skiing for the first time. It also observed marked increases in visitor numbers to its website.
The Snow Factor indoor ski centre in Glasgow, meanwhile, reported a significant surge in interest in skiing and snowboarding in February which it attributed squarely to “the Jenny Jones effect”.
All of which is great, of course, but is anything being done to help all these potential first-time skiers and boarders get on to the snow? (Or even on to the plastic?) Or will the moment be lost, as memories fade, exciting new video games are released and dreams of athletic glory are quietly shelved?
Happily, Snowsport Scotland has already been hard at work trying to inspire the next generation of Olympians. Its pilot Learn to Ski programme started in January and finishes later this month – perfect timing, as it means that many of the 950 Primary 6 children in the Stirling area to have benefited from a free day of instruction at Glencoe followed by a day at a dry ski slope will have been able to go home after their lessons, switch on the TV and watch homegrown heroes like Murray Buchan and Ben Kilner trading halfpipe tricks with the best in the world.
It is hoped that eventually the programme will be rolled out right across Scotland, giving more kids than ever before the opportunity to give skiing a try.
And efforts are being made to keep them coming back for more, too. Every participant in the scheme receives two further one hour lessons at a dry ski slope, a one-day lift pass at Glencoe as well as specially discounted packages for purchasing ski clothing and gear.
If skiing and snowboarding are ever to shake off their exclusive, toffs-only image, this is exactly the kind of scheme that will help achieve it.
In the introduction to his new book, The Ultimate Mountain Trivia Quiz Challenge (Luath, £7.99), Ralph Storer cautions that solitary quiz surfing can be addictive and, having spent the last couple of hours trying and failing to put his book down, I can confirm he’s absolutely right.
Compiled by Storer and the Go-Take-A-Hike Mountaineering Club, whose members include Needlepoint (“companion of the compass”), Torpedo (“bald and streamlined”) and F-Stop (“always f***ing stopping to take photographs”), the questions are divided into sections on Scotland, the rest of the UK and the rest of the world.
Some are deliberately easy to give you a confidence boost at the start (“In which country is Mount Kenya situated?”), some will be relatively straightforward to anyone with a passing interest in hillwalking (“Name the only Scottish island apart from Skye that has any Munros”).
Some will be fiendishly difficult unless you’ve actually climbed the mountain in question (“Name the only Munro in Scotland whose standard ascent route passes limestone caves”) or recently watched the film Mrs Brown (“Name the first of many Cairngorm Munros climbed by Queen Victoria.”)
A thoroughly fascinating way to kill time – every bothy in the land should be furnished with a laminated copy, for those days when the wind comes up or the cloud comes down.