Katie Summerhayes slams plans for Sheffield’s doomed Ski Village site

Sheffield Ski Village in its current state

Sheffield Ski Village in its current state

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Katie Summerhayes, the Winter Olympian and recent World Freestyle Ski silver medallist, admits she is “disappointed” about plans to transform the run-down Ski Village, and its surrounding area, into a major leisure attraction.

Earlier this month Sheffield Council announced they are working on a ‘detailed masterplan,’ to turn the 150 hectare site - which includes Parkwood Springs from Rutland Road in the south, to Herries Road in the north - into a ‘leisure hub’.

Pictured Katie Summerhayes with coach Jamie Matthew after coming second at the World Championships in Kreischberg

Pictured Katie Summerhayes with coach Jamie Matthew after coming second at the World Championships in Kreischberg

Proposals include a 2km mountain bike trail and while generally accepting proposals for the current vandalism and fly-tipping hotspot as “a fairly good use for the site”, Summerhayes was deeply saddened by the news.

She believes that the Ski Village - formerly the largest artificial ski resort in Europe - should have been saved to support British snow sports.

“I can’t quite believe it,” said the World Junior gold medallist.

“It’s such a shame and comes as a big shock to me.

See Ross Parry copy RPYSKI'Picture shows Sheffield Ski Village in its current state.  Half of Team GB's freestyle skiers at the 2014 Winter Olympics, which is taking place in Sochi, Russia, learned their tricks at Sheffield Ski Village.  James Woods, 21, James Machon, 23, and Katie Summerhayes, 18, all trained at Sheffield Ski Village and they make up half of Team GB's Freestyle Skiing team. Now it has gone, there is a question mark over where South Yorkshire's next generation of Olympians will come from.''rossparry.co.uk / Tom Maddick

See Ross Parry copy RPYSKI'Picture shows Sheffield Ski Village in its current state. Half of Team GB's freestyle skiers at the 2014 Winter Olympics, which is taking place in Sochi, Russia, learned their tricks at Sheffield Ski Village. James Woods, 21, James Machon, 23, and Katie Summerhayes, 18, all trained at Sheffield Ski Village and they make up half of Team GB's Freestyle Skiing team. Now it has gone, there is a question mark over where South Yorkshire's next generation of Olympians will come from.''rossparry.co.uk / Tom Maddick

“I’ll be very sad if the plans go ahead because I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for those slopes and neither would a lot of the GB snow sports team.

“It had the best jumps in the country and I worry about the next generation coming through now - a slope in Sheffield could inspire so many people.

“The only good thing about the Council’s plans is that it involves exercise and activity so hopefully the public can benefit health wise from a facility like that.”

Katie started skiing aged six and was taken to the former Sheffield Ski Village every Saturday with her sister Molly, who also represented GB at the World Freestyle Ski and Snowboard Championships in Kreischberg, Austria - finishing a respectable 11th in her first appearance for her country.

See Ross Parry copy RPYSKI'Picture shows Sheffield Ski Village in its current state.  Half of Team GB's freestyle skiers at the 2014 Winter Olympics, which is taking place in Sochi, Russia, learned their tricks at Sheffield Ski Village.  James Woods, 21, James Machon, 23, and Katie Summerhayes, 18, all trained at Sheffield Ski Village and they make up half of Team GB's Freestyle Skiing team. Now it has gone, there is a question mark over where South Yorkshire's next generation of Olympians will come from.''rossparry.co.uk / Tom Maddick

See Ross Parry copy RPYSKI'Picture shows Sheffield Ski Village in its current state. Half of Team GB's freestyle skiers at the 2014 Winter Olympics, which is taking place in Sochi, Russia, learned their tricks at Sheffield Ski Village. James Woods, 21, James Machon, 23, and Katie Summerhayes, 18, all trained at Sheffield Ski Village and they make up half of Team GB's Freestyle Skiing team. Now it has gone, there is a question mark over where South Yorkshire's next generation of Olympians will come from.''rossparry.co.uk / Tom Maddick

The Sheffield slopes also helped produce many other Team GB top athletes, including Sochi 2014 Olympians James Woods, aged 22, and James Machon; Olympic snowboarders Zoe Gillings-Brier and Jamie Nicholls, and also mogul expert Ellie Koyander and free skier Paddy Graham.

The reason for such success has been put down to the ‘remarkable, ahead of its time features’ at the facility, funded primarily by creator and city entrepreneur John Fleetham in 1988, at a cost of £2.5million.

The development of the Sheffield Sharks Ski Club, set up in 1990 to promote children’s skiing, both at recreational and competitive levels, helped.

They were recognised in 2004 as the CCPR UK Sports Club of the Year.

Both Summerhayes sisters trained at the facility until it was burnt down in 2012, and the eldest sibling believes action should have been taken several years ago to save the site, which has suffered three recorded fires since it closed.

“It’s devastating to see what state it has been just left to get into,” said Waterthorpe-born Katie.

“I can’t believe when I see pictures of the place now, it’s just a complete wreck.

“So many talented athletes have come from Sheffield and I think something should have been done to continue the snow sports legacy.

“I can’t understand why it was left to just rot for so long and maybe it could have been saved if the right funding and people had stepped up.”

Mr Peat, who is involved with campaign group Snowsport4Sheffield, said: “To have an inner city provision for leisure, skiing and extreme sports - all of which are on the up at the moment - would be amazing. The ski village is definitely something Sheffield is missing and people want to see reborn.”

And GB Moguls Ski Team manager and head coach Chris David, 36, who worked at the Village between 1996 and 2001, added: “It’s a crying shame to hear the recent proposals because the slopes gave so much to the city and I believe a lot could have, and should have, been done to bring it back to it’s former glory.

“Look how well the likes of Katie and Molly are doing. I’m sure a lot of local youngsters have been inspired and a lot could have taken up the sport in the city.

“So ultimately it’s their generation that will miss out.”

Chris is also the Chill Factore snow sports manager and currently coaches 40 talented youngsters at the Manchester sports facility.

But he is limited in training sessions due to space and features, such as jumps, - unlike at the former Sheffield base.

“Sheffield had permanent features such as a huge half-pipe, moguls and air jumps whereas in Manchester we can have them up for two to three months at a time due to the restricted size,” said the Sheffield-born skier and snowboard expert.

“This is a problem because it means that we can’t get athletes to specialise as early because they won’t always be able to practice on their discipline such as the moguls.

“The Village was way ahead of its time and I know avenues have been explored to try and save it as a snow sports institution.

“But obviously the council have had to look for other options which unfortunately has resulted in the demise of the slopes.

“You only need to look at the current GB team to see what a role the site has played, and the Sheffield Sky Village was at the heart of supporting snow sports from the grass root level up.”

Plans have not been finalised, as Sheffield Council are currently considering the site’s market potential guidance and the feasibility of the new attraction.

In coming months, it will work with stakeholders and conduct a public consultation.

A Council spokesperson said: “The plan is still very much in the embryonic stages and we will be putting it out to consultation.

“But we want to use the area as a site for leisure.

“We have a number of suggestions on the table but we are very much open to ideas.

“It has the potential to be a major attraction that adds to Sheffield’s unique image – offering both city life and outdoor recreation.”