When someone mentions ‘Britain’s Ocean City’, people wouldn’t normally associate it with Snowsports but, for 30 years now, anyone who has made the arduous journey to Plymouth has been greeted by the sight of the ski slope. OM spent a sunny afternoon catching up with the team at Plymouth Snowsports Centre to find out how they’ve turned the Plymouth ski slope into the iconic landmark it is today and how they plan on celebrating 30 years of Snowsports.
Plymouth Snowsports Centre is celebrating 30 years on the 22nd of October 2019 and they couldn’t be happier to celebrate this joyous occasion. The centre was bought in 1989 by business owner, at the time John Nike. Since the sad passing of John Nike, the Nike family now own John Nike Leisuresport.
When the centre was purchased, the focus was solely on skiing. However, in the mid-1990’s snowboarding was rapidly becoming more popular, and the centre introduced it into their programme of activities. With the South West being home to a big community of surfers and skaters, along with the Winter Olympics buzz, snowboarding remains a popular activity for those looking to expand their horizons.
After a visit to Austria when John Nike saw the famous Cresta toboggan run, he decided to add a toboggan run to the centre in the late 1990’s. Snow tubing on the intermediate slope followed in the early 2000s, and the Viper Drop was opened by Ben Mee from Dartmoor Zoo, on the 2012 Open Day. Tots snowboarding for children down to age 4 was added in 2017, and the ‘Space Invaders’ sno-tubing lane was added this year. To this day, these same snowsports see the centre filled with people embracing the daring activities they have to offer right on their doorstep.
The centre is one of five snowsports sites owned by John Nike Leisuresport Ltd. The head office is based in Bracknell and there are also snowsports sites in Chatham, Llandudno, and Swadlincote, all offering the same activities as Plymouth Snowsports Centre.
James Pitcher, Head of Snow School at the centre tells us – “It’s the biggest empire of plastics slopes as far as I’m aware that there is in the UK”
It’s been 30 years since boxer Barry Mcguigan officially opened the centre in 1989 and the staff couldn’t be more excited to get stuck into the celebrations. Ian Colton, Centre Manager, Helen Ambler, Assistant Manager, James Pitcher, Head of Snowsports and Gill Robinson, Head of Catering have been busy planning out a weekend of fun for the people of Plymouth and beyond to enjoy, embrace and get stuck into the snowsports activities and much more.
Saturday 5th and Sunday 6th October will see Plymouth Snowsports Centre host their open weekend to commemorate 30 years of being open as a snowsports facility.
The weekend will be packed with fun-filled activities for people to throw themselves into. Taster sessions will be available throughout the day for people of all ages to learn how to ski and snowboard for £5 and all the activities will be available at discounted prices, including tobogganing for only £1 per ride. The centre has ensured that everybody is catered for with a face painter, a bouncy castle, and even a falconry display from Westcountry Falconry on both days. Also, DBS (Deep Blue Sound) will be providing a musical accompaniment to enliven the open weekend and showcase new and upcoming local talent from their training programme.
If all of that wasn’t enough, they are hoping to break the world record of ‘longest chain of linked skiers’ – which involves skiers travelling 100 metres while holding hands. James, Head of Snowsports, is hoping that they can beat the current record of 60.
“We would really like to beat it and it is possible, but it’s going to be tricky due to the slope being steep. We need to have more proficient skiers to handle the slope, but it’ll be fun to give it a go and if we don’t manage it then we’ll try again next year!”
The centre has pulled out all of the stops for the open weekend event and ensured that there is something for everyone, of all ages, to get involved in to celebrate 30 years of this amazing leisure facility in Plymouth.
The centre has had a few changes over the years, but one thing that hasn’t changed is the popularity of the snowsports they offer. Skiing and snowboarding remain extremely popular, as well as the Cresta Toboggan run and snow tubing slope. The centre offers activities that bring people of all ages together to try something new and embrace this huge leisure facility at the heart of Plymouth.
When asked which activity is most popular, Helen Ambler, Assistant Manager tells us – “Snow tubing and tobogganing are on par with their popularity, as people tend to do one and then do the other straight after”.
The centre offers a ‘Slide, Ride and Drop’ package which is a huge hit with people visiting the centre. This package offers the opportunity to do tobogganing, snow tubing and their viper drop all in one session. Another exciting package available is their increasingly popular Thrilling Thursday sessions where for £15pp you can have unlimited snow tubing, tobogganing and viper dropping between 4 pm and 8 pm, with the Alpine Lodge serving some fantastic food offers to feed the appetite worked up afterwards.
However, skiing and snowboarding lessons remain a focal point for the centre as many people are opting to holiday in the Alps on snowsports holidays and therefore decide to take lessons before they go and use the facilities as a tool to practice and hone their skills.
With a huge 110 metre main slope that you can’t miss and a dedicated beginner slope, there’s a variety of lessons available. Both private and group, ski or snowboard lessons are available at an affordable cost, starting from £15 for group sessions and £60 for private lessons. Lessons cater for all levels from beginner, right the way up to instructor training. (Schools and Scouts/Cubs/Guides/Brownies and other clubs start from £10pp).
Holiday club sees Plymouth Snowsports Centre flocked with kids enjoying their activities. During the school holidays, parents can enrol their children into the holiday clubs offered knowing they’re being supervised whilst having a fun time. The children choose between learning to ski or snowboard with all of the equipment included and then they get to use the toboggan, snow tube and, viper drop.
“The great thing about it is that it’s cheaper than child-care being only £35 per day and they get to learn a new sport and skill, as well as socialising and interacting with other children. They also get a hot lunch and squash included.”
A few new members of management have seen Plymouth Snowsports Centre head in a different direction than before. They are now focusing on growing their audience and ensuring people still know they are open for business and sharing the excellent activities they have to offer.
Catering Manager, Gill Robinson is looking to raise the profile of the centre by bringing back events that used to be extremely popular with the locals. In October, they will re-launch their Sunday lunches which used to be hugely popular with the people of Plymouth. Gill is also bringing back quiz and karaoke nights to get people through the doors.
“We’re trying to bring all of those things back for the locals”
One event that is always a big hit with the locals is the comedy nights hosted on the first Friday of every month. The event is held in the newly decorated Alpine Lodge where food is available from their special comedy night menu. Tickets are available for £10 if pre-booked or £12 on the door.
Gill tells us that they have a new cook and that the feedback on their new menu and food has improved massively and is being recognised by their regular customers. Their focus is to cater for everyone with a variety of options available on the menu, catering for vegetarians, vegans, gluten intolerances and children.
The Alpine Lodge can accommodate up to 140 on a normal day, as well as hosting functions of all kinds. The centre is immensely popular with birthday parties for all ages from young children right the way up to 80th birthday parties. They also host an array of other functions such as weddings, engagement parties, wakes, networking events, hen and stag do’s, corporate meetings, Christmas functions, and so much more. They are looking to promote this and see the use of the centre for functions grow.
“It’s a really nice place as you’re away from everything and it’s lovely and quiet.”
Ian Colton, Centre Manager, is focusing his attention on growing their marketing and ensuring they have all bases covered to get their name out there in the holiday trade. New signage is being constructed to let people know that they are still there and still open for business.
Plymouth Snowsports Centre offers more than any other leisure facility in Plymouth and beyond, with something to do for families, individuals, and large groups. There are plans to resurface the slopes within the next two years and plenty of events in store to help grow, improve and build the centre to reach its full potential and we here at OM can’t wait to see what the next few years will bring and we couldn’t be more pleased for them.
For more information on Plymouth Snowsports Centre, including information about facilities, prices and bookings – head over to their website using the details below or give them a call on 01752 600220 where a member of the team will be happy to talk to you.
Call us: 01752 600220
Plymouth Ski Centre, Alpine Park, Plymouth, PL6 8LW