THERE’S no business like snow business for Russell Bennett and Richard Mills - they have opened a winter sports shop, not in the Alps but in Barnsley!
But it’s where their love for the slopes began as kids, sledging down pit heaps in the former coal town.
Now, despite one of the mildest winters in years, business is snowballing for the entrepreneur pals at Bennetts Wintersports, in Sheffield Road.
VIDEO: Press the play button to watch our video reportYou can also watch digital editor Graham Walker’s video report, including a tour of Bennetts Wintersports and chats with Russell Bennett and Richard Mills, on YouTube - CLICK HERE.
Russell, aged 38, a father of two from Gawber, has transformed the upstairs of his family’s 63-year-old motorcycle shop and stocked it with a vast range of winter sports equipment and designer gear.
He still has the family motorbikes business on the ground floor, but climb the stairs and the peak is full of skis, snowboards, helmets, goggles, gloves, accessories and more.
Richard, 36, from Barnsley, is also proving a major draw with a specialist workshop at the back of the shop. He has a growing international reputation as a leading ski technician.
The pals have now launched a website, with plans of doing a ‘coals-to-Newcastle’ and selling to ski fans worldwide.
They have worked at ski resorts all over Europe but decided to open shop in their home town to target a growing market.
Skiing is increasingly popular at Sheffield Ski Village and at the real-snow indoor training slopes at Castleford Xscape ski centre, where Russell, a qualified ski instructor, is chairman of the Lions Ski Club.
He said: “There are lots of places locally to ski all year round and more people are going abroad. We don’t do ski holidays, yet - but we know all the resorts and our advice is free.
“Barnsley is actually well located for the north. We’ve had customers from all over the country and with the internet there’s no reason why we can’t sell to skiers in the Alps. It’s amazing how many people are coming in just for designer wear. We sell all the leading names.”
Law graduate Richard, who turned down a legal career to pursue his love of skiing, is just back from testing Scott Sports UK equipment off piste in Stuben, Austria.
When it snows in Barnsley he’s skied on the local golf course. Next time it might be the steep Harborough Hills Road. But Russell warns he’ll have to watch out for the 40mph road safety camera.
“Anything’s possible. It’s just the hiking back up - we don’t have ski lifts in Barnsley,” he laughed.