By Richard Gardner at Ski
Rossendale (All original
artowk by the Author)
Figure One: An overhead impression of Ski Rossendale's facilities.
A - Main Slope, 200m x 25m B - Intermediate Slope, 70m x 15m
C - Nursery Slope, 35m x 40m D - Entrance & Exit
E - Booking Office F - Ski Hire
G - Staff Quarters and Brew Room H - Duty Managers Office
I - Restaurant J - Apex (Private function room)
K - Wofner Lift (Main) L - Dopplemeyer Lift (Main)
M - Pommer Lift (Intermediate) N - Travelator Lift (Nursery)
O - Intermediate Ramps P - (Top) Observation Hut
Q - Main Slope Moguls R - Dopplemeyer Hut (Mechanics)
S - Car Park (To the maintenance barn)
Ski Rossendale was first
opened in September 1973 with the aid of a Sports Council grant. Back
then it was one of the first dry skiing surfaces in the country and still
remains the premier snow sport facility in the North West of England.
The centre is set amongst the picturesque hills and woodland of the Rossendale
Valley and incorporates an alpine, log cabin look to all of the facilities.
There are three ski slopes at the centre, a 200m x 25m main slope formed
of Dendex matting (one of the longest in the country, including moguls
and landscaping), a 70m x 15m intermediate slope (recently refurbished
in Snowflex, Virtual snow and including landscaping and two ramps) and
a 35m x 40m nursery slope (also built from Snowflex). See Figure One.
Since opening the slope has been run by Rossendale Borough Council and
is one of a number of leisure facilities provided by the council within
the Rossendale constituency - each local government is required to provide
a number of sports and cultural venues or initiatives by parliamentary
law. In recent years though it has become increasingly apparent that major
investment is required to keep in sync with rival skiing facilities in
the area, notably Sheffield and Halifax. To this end, and being that the
councils leisure committee are reluctant to commit further funding to
the leisure budget; an interim partnership has been developed with the
Pendle Leisure Trust with a view to them taking over management responsibilities
across the entire Rossendale leisure structure.
The Pendle Leisure Trust, a subdivision of Pendle Borough Council, took
over for an initial interim period of three months in January of this
year. Following this, a six-month extension was decided and should the
Trust decide to take over management responsibilities then they shall
do so in late September/early October. This is widely expected to bring
a radical restructure to the way Rossendale leisure facilities are run.
Due to the recent experimental
takeover, the overall organisational structure at Ski Rossendale has changed
to incorporate an interim area manager from The Pendle Leisure Trust.
They are currently working with the Rossendale Leisure Committee, the
Rossendale Leisure Operations Manager and Duty Managers at each of the
facilities in order to calculate exactly what restructuring is required.
Any final decisions to be taken however are still the responsibility of
the Leisure Committee.
On a day-to-day basis, two on-site Duty Managers manage the centre on
an alternate rota system (there are also reserve Duty Managers who fill
in as and when required). Following these are each of the departmental
heads: the Catering Manager, the Administrative Manager and the Maintenance
Team. There are also Assistant cooks, Instructors, Booking Secretaries,
Catering Assistants and Attendants who take up the majority of the staffing
structure. See figure two.
Figure Two: The organisational structure of Ski Rossendale.
Additionally a secondary
structure exists at the centre, encompassing the different organisations
and clubs that regularly make use of the slopes facilities. These are
highlighted in figure three (note: Ski Rossendale Kids Club is the only
internally run club at the centre).
Figure Three: The major clubs & associations that
make use of the ski-slope.
Whilst doing my attachment,
the main areas where I became involved were management of the ski-slope,
instruction and event organisation. Due to health and safety issues though,
and without the relevant first-aid qualifications required to work with
the public at this facility, my main role during the attachment was purely
observational. As I have previously worked at the ski slope as an Attendant,
I shall not be covering any of the Attendant duties and concentrating
purely on Duty Management, Instruction and event organisation.
The role of Duty Manager at the centre is extremely varied and high levels
of flexibility are required. Throughout their shift, the DM (as they are
referred to) has to ensure the centre runs as smoothly as possible, keeping
a constant eye on everything that is happening.
Off-site responsibilities are, unsurprisingly, the jobs that require some
sort of action outside the centre. Many outside contractors supply or
maintain equipment at the ski slope and it is the Duty Managers responsibility
to contact these when required. Skiing and snowboarding equipment (including
boots, bindings, helmets and poles) is constantly evolving and therefore
periodically needs updating to keep in touch with current trends. It is
the Duty Managers task not just to keep track of current stock but also
to negotiate contracts with the equipment manufacturers to get both the
best price and equipment.
Other equipment also needs to be replaced and monitored constantly. The
main slope is constructed with an underlying sprinkler system to provide
smoother skiing. Both matting and sprinkler heads need maintaining continuously.
By working in conjunction with the maintenance team, these can be kept
permanently in stock. The three main lifts, in operation on the main and
intermediate slopes, are also in regular need of new parts to function
correctly. Other supplies to be considered here are, staff/instructor
uniforms (including sponsorship issues), cleaning supplies (cleaning agents,
dustbin liners ect.) and gloves (customers are not allowed to use the
slope without wearing gloves, so they are sold at the centre). All other
supplies, administrative and catering, are ordered by the appropriate
Another important external responsibility is to promote the centre and
gain media publicity. Methods of promotion have in the past included advertising
in newspapers (both local and national), magazines, television, cinemas,
internet, flyers and also using banners at snowsport events elsewhere.
Also to benefit the centre through free advertising it is important to
inform the local media of any new events or attractions scheduled; for
example, when the newly refurbished intermediate slope was launched in
February, both the Manchester Evening News and Lancashire Evening Telegraph
were informed and both ran decent stories on the event.
There are also a number of routine tasks that have to be carried out both
upon opening and closing the centre (the Duty Managers work three different
shifts; afternoons or evenings during the week or both at weekends). These
include, opening up, doing lift checks, organising rotas, cashing up and
ensuring all buildings are locked and powered down at close.
The Duty Manager is also required to organise staff rotas for the Ski
Attendants. Although this may sound relatively simple in principle, in
practice it is another matter especially in the winter period. With the
centre employing a large number of Attendant staff (4 contracted and up
to 20 casual in winter) it is essential not just to remember faces but
also availability. Remembering who can work when is vital in processing
what would otherwise be an extremely time consuming task.
As with any organisation that serves the public, customer care is the
highest priority. In this area, the Duty Manager must ensure that the
customer receives the best service available. This can include, making
sure that the Attendants are doing their quota of work (ensuring that
toilets are kept clean and that there is always someone in ski hire ect.),
dealing with any complaints that arise, giving information to customers
(from skiing techniques to which equipment to hire), actually taking lessons
(if a group turn up and no instructors are available) and even ejecting
awkward customers. It is also the sole responsibility of the Duty Manager
to administer any first aid should there be an accident.
For many, the first experience of skiing or snowboarding will come at
the centre either as preparation for a winter holiday, through a natural
desire to learn or through outside pressure (such as parents or school).
The relative success of this first encounter can be crucial in deciding
whether or not the customer is likely to come back and therefore spend
more money. It is therefore essential that the Instructor in charge is
not just skilled at teaching the lesson but also equally importantly skilled
at making it a pleasurable and constructive experience.
One of the Saturday morning Kid's Club instructors, told me that when
taking a new intake of young children onto the slope for the first time,
they only aim to achieve three things. That in the session the kid's learn
to slide down the Nursery slope, that they learn to stay upright and most
importantly of all, that they keep on smiling.
Whilst watching another initial lesson, a skiing taster, it soon became
apparent that this philosophy was a valuable component in the teaching
process. In this a group of eight school children (ages 5-7) and their
teacher were taught from scratch, within fifty minutes, up to a stage
whereby they could slow down and stop when reaching the bottom of the
slope. This process was done in several stages; firstly a brief and friendly
introduction whereby the Instructor established if any of the group had
any previous experience and guidance on boot comfort and ski structure.
Following from this the group put on one ski and tried to walk around;
to a group of young children, the sight of their teacher stumbling around
on one ski was both hilarious and stimulating. They then worked with both
skis on and were taught about balance and posture (knees bent, leaning
slightly forward). Once the group had slid down the slope several times
each, the group were taught about awareness by the way of a little game.
As each customer came down the slope the Instructor threw them a glove,
forcing them to take their eyes from their feet and ski purely from proprioceptive
feedback and spatial vision (although this only happened briefly it is
a very important process in learning to ski as will be explained later).
Finally, the group were taught to slow by pushing their feet inward and
their legs outward to form an inverted V shape with the skis (known as
a plough). Throughout the lesson, the Instructor was friendly, informative
and extremely encouraging whilst also giving time to ensure that all the
important instructions had been thoroughly absorbed before moving on.
The group all seemed to enjoy themselves and at the end, everyone was
In another lesson, another of the Instructors was faced with a dilemma.
A group of teenage boys of substantially different abilities were to be
taught. This was achieved by separating the group; the boys who could
ski well enough to be on the main slope were left unsupervised for the
first part of the lesson whilst the rest (including ones who needed instruction
on the main slope) went to the nursery slope. After teaching the complete
novices how to control their speed and stop, the instructor took the intermediate
skiers onto the main slope and taught them the basics of skiing there
(including how to use the lifts). Now he was able to monitor the intermediate
skiers and give the advanced ones tips as he watched them ski. By doing
this, the group were all able to learn something from the lesson and practice
throughout. Once again the style of coaching was encouragement and information
although a sort of 'best friend' approach was adopted being as though
the boys were all about sixteen. After the lesson finished, as with before,
all of the boys seemed in high spirits and seemed to have enjoyed themselves
Another aspect of coaching
at the centre is the Kids Club and due to the scale of the operation,
this could itself be likened to a mini event. The club runs two sessions
every Saturday morning and also runs an optional annual holiday on snow.
A colour-coded scheme (adapted from the real snow runs coding system)
is employed to distinguish group abilities and this ranges from green,
top green, blue top blue, red, top red through to black. Other groups
also include, kindergarten, new intake and race development. The aim of
the club is as one club instructor put it, for the kids to have as much
fun as possible whilst advancing their skills as far as possible. Being
a Club instructor can be pretty gruelling work since there can be up to
a hundred plus kids on each session.
The scale of Kids Club though pales significantly in comparison to the
Summer Race Leagues. Each month, from May till September, on a Sunday
a race is held at Ski Rossendale. I attended the race on June 8th. Each
race has approximately one hundred and sixty competitors and there are
also hundreds of spectators in attendance. The racing system works through
two stages; each competitor must make two timed runs and then are grouped
into sets of four for head-to-head races (for example, the fastest four
racers will be in the top group and each will race against each other).
Points are awarded in both stages and there are team and individual scores
much like in Formula One racing.
The race itself is organised by a series of different people. Initially,
a course-setter (qualified by the English Ski Council) marks out a course
three days before the race. The gates are set out in a red-blue sequence
with some lying vertical and most horizontally on the slope (see figure
four). The competitors must go through each gate in sequence or they are
disqualified, some of the younger competitors require leaders to show
them the correct route.
Figure Four: Race League gate layout.
On the race day, the course is monitored by the Course Supervisor. This
job is to initially set up the course and keep an eye on it throughout
the races (if for example one of the slalom poles comes out, the course
supervisor either has to put it back in or radio someone closer to do
it). At the top of the slope is an electronic trap that signals the start
of each run and at the bottom a second trap signals the end. A Course
Timer using a laptop computer and the Alge timing equipment/traps then
logs all timings. At each gate there stands a judge and should a competitor
fail to make that gate then they will raise a flag, each team entering
the event is required to supply one judge for the gates.
As was previously mentioned, awareness plays a major role in learning
to ski and this is best seen when slalom skiing. During the race, competitors
are taught (at race training sessions held twice weekly at the centre)
always to look two gates ahead and not at the gate they are currently
going through. The reasoning for this is that at speed it is too late
to adjust direction and posture to turn gates unless they have been noted
well in advance. Therefore to ski correctly (not just when slalom racing)
it is necessary to rely on proprioceptive feedback as much, if not more,
as visual or auditory feedback.
The race lasted approximately four hours with each stage running for about
two. Although the races are seen as a stepping-stone to the regional and
national tournaments, they are primarily about having fun and giving the
competitors a taste for slalom competition. I found this out when asking
some of the leading competitors if they had made any specific dietary
modifications to enhance their performance (ie: taking a high carbohydrate
load or energy drinks). This was laughed off and at lunchtime I saw why,
there was a large barbecue outside the restaurant where competitors of
all abilities were to be seen eating hotdogs and hamburgers! Some of the
older ones even had a can of beer with their lunch.
Methods of communication
within the centre are relatively simple. Internally the staff all carry
portable radios to communicate with each other. There is also an internal
telephone system with preset dials on each of the phones. This could break
down, say, if one of the batteries died but because of the facilities
size a member of staff would not have to travel far to either find a colleague
with another radio or a telephone. Most internal communications come either
through or via the Duty Manager. Departmental heads refer to the DM either
for assistance or to report something (for example, if there is a delivery
in Ski Hire). The Duty Manager is also constantly in contact with the
Attendants, especially in the Top Hut as the Attendant who is monitoring
the slope reports any equipment misuage or failure straight to the DM.
Other forms of internal communication are: memos, notice boards, staff
meetings and staff feedback questionnaires.
Externally, as with internally, most communication comes through the Duty
Manager. Either through verbal (telephone or meetings), on paper (letters,
faxes and questionnaires) or electronic (emails and the internet). Problems
can arise when using the wrong type of communication, as each is best
for certain situations. For instance, is that is much simpler to send
a fax, rather than to scan in or type out a document and forward it by
email. It is up to the individual to work out which method is most appropriate.
In conclusion, I think
that the production of this report is essentially flawed. By skimming
through subjects, I have in no means been able to provide a thorough background
to my attachment. I have had to miss out a lot of what I learnt in order
to meet the three thousand word limit and in doing this I have not been
able to fully reflect upon my experience.
The attachment itself though I found to be highly informative and helpful.
Although my degree as such would not count towards much here as most positions
require trade qualifications, I have learnt invaluable information on
how a sporting facility is organised, different coaching methods and also
of event organisation. I also think that with what I learn from Trinity
& All Saints and the appropriate qualifications, I would be able to
make an adept Instructor and offer a range of knowledge that could only
add to the centre as a whole. Duty Management though is something I would
not wish to pursue as I think it would be too much for me!
Following this report is a table of skill and a list of useful website
Word count 2,998 (Excluding figures)
Duty Manager - Organisation, flexibility, leadership, judgement, hard-working,
communication skills, customer skills, presentation skills, negotiation
skills, management knowledge, first aid knowledge, mechanical knowledge,
advanced skiing and snowboarding knowledge.
Instructor - Organisation, patience, approachability, friendly,
adaptability, commitment, communication skills, customer skills, first
aid skills, good with children, advanced knowledge of skiing or snowboarding.
Course Supervisor - Organisation, sharp eyesight, responsive, leadership,
communication skills, knowledge of slalom racing.
Useful Web Links
The official Site. http://www.ski-rossendale.co.uk
Ski Rossendale Kids Club. http://www.rosskidsclub.co.uk
(Includes race results)
Ski Art. http://www.skiart.co.uk
Lions Ski Club. http://www.lions-skiclub.co.uk
Pendle Ski Club. http://www.pendleskiclub.org.uk
Kings Ski Club. http://www.kingsski.org
Uphill Ski Club. http://www.uphillskiclub.co.uk