Snowsport talent wasted as Hillend cancels sessions

A talented teenage snowboarder could be forced to quit the sport after Midlothian Council scrapped weekly classes due to a lack of participants.

Monday, 24th September 2018, 8:36 am
Updated Monday, 24th September 2018, 8:46 am
Jack McBride wants to snowboard again

Jack McBride first tried snowboarding 18 months ago and fell in love with the sport, attending weekly sessions at Hillend Snowsports Centre.

The 13-year-old glided through initial training, progressing to freestyle snowboarding and tasting success in his first competition with a third place finish at KJAM 2018 in Cumbria.

But Midlothian Council has unexpectedly stopped the ski and freestyle sessions saying it was not viable to continue with few participants.

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Jack McBride, 13, may have to give up snowboarding after freestyle sessions were cancelled at Hillend Snowsports Centre. Pic: Submitted

In addition, Hillend’s jump slope has also been out of action for months with the council saying it is “not currently fit for purpose” leaving Jack with no means of training.

The worrying situation has drawn concern from Team GB Park and Pipe Ski squad members Anna Vincenti and Murray Buchan, who also started out at the Midlothian centre.

Jack’s mum, Louise McBride, 44, said: “He loves snowboarding. Without notice the centre has cancelled the entire programme so Jack is in limbo and now won’t enter anything competitive as he can’t practice.

“It’s devastating to think that he may not be able to fulfil his potential. We’ve tried taking him to Glasgow but it’s just not possible to get him there for 5pm after school. He’s gone as far as he can go now and it may be he’ll end up just losing interest. It’s the first sport he’s ever been this passionate about. He spends ages on YouTube watching videos and wants to go to Canada and do coaching when he’s older. The council should try contacting schools and advertising the sessions to reach out to people.”

The Royal High School pupil is hoping for more interest in the sport to encourage the council to rethink its decision.

Murray Buchan, 26, said: “This is really sad to hear considering when it was built Hillend had the best jump in the UK. I was fortunate I was able to use the facilities in their prime and without it I wouldn’t have been to two Olympic Games. It’s incredibly frustrating to hear that the slope has been out of use for months and stopping freestyle sessions is just going to stop the talent pool. People will give up the sport if investment isn’t made into the Hillend jump slope.”

Midlothian Council has proposals for a multi-million pound project which would see the jump slope double in length to become one of the best in the country. The council will take plans to a meeting in December for approval.

A council spokesman added: “We have been reviewing our classes at the Snowsports Centre and have found that the freestyle ski and board class has recently only attracted one or two participants. As a result, it is no longer viable for us to run this. We have also had to close the jump slope as it is not currently fit for purpose and is a potential hazard to users.

“We accept that it’s unfortunate the youngster is not getting access to the jump slope to continue with his chosen sport.”