It’s not hard to find a reason to visit a small town in the middle of summer. One can walk down the street and pop into virtually any café or restaurant for some alpine pastries, juicy steaks, or other hearty European fare. But, if one is a true enthusiast, there are other options. For instance, in the summer of 2018, the UK experienced an extreme heatwave that tragically took many lives. Luckily, some places were better prepared than others. Towns and cities built on steep hillsides were particularly vulnerable. The temperatures were so unbearable that some locals turned to the slopes for relief. That’s when the real action began. The town of Stoke-on-Trent, located in the West Midlands, UK, has the dubious honour of being the oldest ski resort in the world. It all started back in the 1800s when the first British ski club was formed in the nearby town. The craze took off and over the years, the little alpine village grew into a major European winter sports centre. In fact, it still is. People from all over the world come to this little pocket of Europe to ski and stay in the quaint bed & breakfasts, hotels, and self-catering chalets that line the slopes. In the following, we will tell you more about this extraordinary little town and its incredible skiing history.
Skiing Is Back
It’s been a wild ride since the turn of the century. Back then, most people thought that skiing was a decadent, luxury sport reserved for the wealthy and the famous. The UK in particular was averse to the idea of skiing. It was associated with the European continent, its glamorous high-society gatherings and expensive ski clothes. But that all changed in the wake of the great pandemic. The desire for a change of scene and winter sports in general gained popularity as the nation adjusted to life outside and found new ways to fill its days. It wasn’t long before a small group of intrepid souls hitched their skis and set off for the hills. That was truly the start of a wintery revolution.
The first UK ski club was formed in the nearby town of Bowness. It was initially inspired by the Dutch ski clubs that had served as a blueprint for the UK branch. The members of the Bowness club were typically middle class, urban explorers seeking a taste of the delights of winter sports. They were followed by an eager group of students, who formed the next chapter of the club in Leicester. There was also a group from Cambridge, which was the first British university to form a ski club.
Oldest Skiing Museum
The village of Stoke-on-Trent isn’t your usual English holiday destination. It’s a pretty remarkable place for a ski resort, as you’ll soon discover. As the oldest ski resort in the world, it has the dubious honour of being the birthplace of ski-in/ski-out accommodation and the ski school. It also boasts the oldest continually operating ski jump in the world (built in 1899), as well as the UK’s first ski run (opened in 1893). If you ever wondered what it would be like to ski in the 1800s, you can visit the Oldest Skiing Museum in Stoke-on-Trent. It’s free entry and houses a fun collection of vintage ski paraphernalia. There are also a few video clips that bring the glories of the sport from the turn of the century to life.
An Alpine Heritage
If you visit Stoke-on-Trent in the summertime, you’ll quickly realise why the town is so proud of its ski heritage. The streets teem with life. There are youngsters in mountain-inspired T-shirts and snowflake-patterned ski jackets, wandering the streets, chatting and playing in the snow. It doesn’t take long to realise that this isn’t just some place on the northern edge of England that happens to have some mountains – this is truly a paradise for winter sports. That’s why the town has hosted the national championships for ski mountaineering, ski marathon, and ski orienteering on a number of occasions. Mountain dwellers and fanatical skiers alike might frequent this Mecca for winter sports. If you love to ski, you can’t miss a stoke-on-trent summer season. Those who live and breathe skiing will have their hearts glued to the piste and their skis strapped to their car during the season. It’s not hard to see why this is England’s best kept secret. There are approximately 80 runs spread over 9 ski resorts, including Dunston Park in Newcastle, which is renowned for its amazing snow-capped peaks.