Carlisle Snowsports Club has entered its 50th anniversary this winter, marking a golden milestone for skiing in Cumbria.
The centre was founded in 1972 and is operated by ski instructor Eric Barlow, who himself started skiing on the dry slope in the year of its opening.
Eric helped lay the original matting and was part of a working party getting the facility up and running alongside his father, who introduced Eric to the sport when he was 10.
Fifty years later, Eric, now 62, runs the dry ski slope virtually single-handedly – from taking bookings to delivering lessons and maintenance to marketing.
Born and bred in Cumbria, Eric says about the dry slope that: “The centre here is the epicentre of what I do.”
“Had I been born in France and living in the three valleys, I’m sure I would have had a lifetime in snowsports. Being in Cumbria, if there hadn’t been a dry ski slope here, it would have been very difficult for me to have a lifetime of fun and enjoyment in snowsports.”
Keeping the facility afloat hasn’t always been easy. The centre, which runs as a non-profit organisation, has been flooded four times in the past 20 years and the climate crisis has threatened its very survival.
Eric says that it can take three-four months to re-establish the ski centre after a flood but he positively adds that: “Despite floods, climate change and everything else, we’re still here.”
Eric adds: “Having the dry ski slope here has allowed me to achieve the dream I had when I was 14, which was I wanted to spend a lifetime in snowsports.
“I would love to think that people coming to the ski slope, have as much fun and enjoyment as much as I have.”
Eric and Carlisle Snowsports Club are featured in a film produced by Cameron Hall to mark the 50th anniversary.
The film ‘A Cumbrian Ski Story’ is a passion project for Cameron, which tells the story of the slope through Eric’s involvement and experiences in the sport in a fantastic video interview.
Cameron Hall said: “Having first learned to ski on a dry ski slope in Cumbria myself, I appreciate first-hand the pivotal role such facilities play in the local communities in Britain.
“Skiing has gone on to be the biggest passion in my life, opening up all sorts of doors – and it’s with thanks to people like Eric, who help to create a path way into the sport for thousands of people in the UK to experience the joy of skiing each year.
“Eric is a true credit to the sport and to the county of Cumbria.”
Watch ‘A Cumbrian Ski Story’: