Snow-Camp: Slopes, Sports and Life Skills

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Snow-Camp is a youth charity with a difference. It doesn’t just support inner-city young people. It drives, motivates and inspires them by teaching them skiing, snowboarding and valuable life skills. Kids aren’t just encouraged to get active – but to set, achieve and surpass goals.

We spoke to Dan Keeley – Snowsports Community Manager at Snow-Camp – to find out how the charity operates, and how you can get involved.

Tell us a little bit about Snow-Camp, what it is and how it all started

“We’re proud to say that Snow-Camp is the UK’s only registered charity using snowsports, life skills programmes and vocational opportunities as a tool to engage some of the most disadvantaged young people in the country; to teach them the skills they need to make positive choices about relationships, education and employment, away from the pressures of their neighbourhood.

“Snow-Camp provides time away from the inner-city environment by running its courses at artificial snow slopes throughout the UK, progressing to the mountains at the final stage. We allow young people aged 13-19, who would not otherwise have access to snowsports, to experience them for the first time, starting with a 2 day introduction through to training to be Level 1 Instructors.

“Our life skills sessions are designed to help young people reflect upon the skills they are demonstrating on the slopes, as well as how to respond to challenges and setting goals for the future. Young people gain a recognised accredited qualification for each individual course, with apprenticeships, work experience, volunteering and employment opportunities within the snowsports industry offered at different stages.”

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What in particular about snowsports do you feel lends itself so well to the work that you do?

“The process of learning to ski or snowboard requires perseverance, commitment, the ability to listen, overcoming fear, team work, patience and determination, all of which are essential skills that inner-city young people – living in areas with high levels of deprivation, crime and gang activity – need in order to deal with the problems they face in their everyday lives.

“We believe that skiing and snowboarding are effective youth work tools for a number of reasons besides the above:

• Snowsports are great fun and attractive to young people. Motivating young people to engage is half the battle with successful youth work.

• Snowsports provide a level playing field where everyone is a complete beginner.

• Snowsports are fantastic for building confidence and self-esteem.

• Snowsports are out of reach for many of the young people we target – Snow-Camp aims to improve accessibility.

• Snow-Camp is unique – nobody else in the UK uses snowsports to work with disadvantaged young people and we believe these sports are unique in their ability to challenge and reward young people.

• The snowsports industry offers a range of employment opportunities that are viable and rewarding roles for our young people. Snow-Camp can play an effective role in this area, linking their snowsports industry partners with the inner-city young people they work with.”

How has Snow-Camp grown over the past 11 years?

“Snow-Camp’s vision from the outset was to support as many young people as possible and to expand programmes to enable this whenever possible. In 2003, 13 young people attended a week-long programme in Les 2 Alpes. Since then, demand for Snow-Camp’s programmes has increased and, as funding allowed, programmes have grown and evolved to meet the need. Restructuring and development of new courses led to the introduction of Snow-Camp’s First Tracks programme in London in 2007, the Graduate programme in 2008, the Excel Instructor Programme in 2010 and finally the Apprenticeship programme in 2013, which completes the current Snow-Camp programme journey.
“In 2013, Snow-Camp celebrated its 10th anniversary, and an expansion plan was put into place to see Snow-Camp become a national charity with programmes running in five UK cities within five years to benefit many more inner-city young people. Using the National Indices of Deprivation followed by the accessibility of UK ski slopes, Snow-Camp identified a need and demand for our programmes across the country. Today, we are delivering Snow-Camp programmes in London, Glasgow and Cardiff, with plans to develop further programmes in Bristol, Birmingham and Yorkshire in 2015. Watch this space!”

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What do you feel is your greatest achievement to date?

“In 2013, Snow-Camp was awarded the Freedom of the City of London for its work with young people. This was an incredible honour for the charity in its 10th anniversary year.

“It’s particularly humbling when we see graduates go on to create their own opportunities in the world of work (particularly in the snowsports industry), who credit their confidence in doing so to their experiences with the charity.”

Ski and snowboarding lessons are central to the way you help with the development of Snow-Camp attendees – what advice do you have for those looking to get into snowsports?

“I think I speak on behalf of all the team by saying just give it a go! There are some excellent facilities in the UK which regularly offer fantastic deals to get you on the snow; but besides the skiing and snowboarding, if you’ve never visited the mountains in the winter, you’re in for a treat! I would also recommend getting yourself a great pair of ski boots. Happy feet, happy skiing!”

Tell us about the Ski 2 The Moon initiative and how the snowsports enthusiasts among the Decathlon audience can get involved.

“Well… since being inspired by the Ice Bucket Challenge, Movember and the like, we wanted to create our own initiative which any snowsports enthusiast could get involved in at any time throughout the winter season. Ski 2 The Moon is what we came up with!
“Right now, hundreds of skiers and snowboarders are creating history by being part of the biggest snowsports event ever launched – the Ski 2 The Moon challenge. The event is unique because skiers and snowboarders all over the world can join in – they just download the Ski 2 The Moon app, set a personal goal and get skiing or snowboarding. Every mile skied is tracked by the app and contributes to a grand total of everyone’s efforts in pursuit of the target distance – the Moon – 238,855 miles away.

“To start the challenge, skiers and snowboarders hit ‘go’ on the App to start tracking and helping towards the collective goal of reaching the Moon. We currently have 34 fantastic partners signed up to support the app from across the snowsports industry and beyond, so we’ve already had a huge amount of support.
“Anyone looking to get involved can download the free app (with all your favourite Ski Tracks functionality built in) from”

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From skydiving to kitesurfing, you often turn to other sports as part of your fundraising efforts. Are Snow-Camp supporters keen sportsmen and women off the slopes, and what is it about sport in general that you feel helps to drive people?

“Absolutely! The kitesurfing community in particular have come together for our annual Kitesurfing Armada and Guinness World Record attempt, with Richard Branson himself taking part in 2013 as part of Virgin’s sponsorship of the event!

“We find that the majority of individuals and organisations who believe in our vision are lifestyle sports enthusiasts. Personally I think above all else that if you’ve had the privilege of trying these sports at a young age, or even for the first time in adulthood, you know the impact they can have on you, which is amplified for the disadvantaged young people we support.”

So what’s next in the Snow-Camp story?

We’re taking our well-established London programmes to new cities across the UK and seeing a real sea-change, from supporting our young people for their year’s journey with us, to witnessing a huge increase recently in the vocational opportunities which our partners are providing both at home in the UK and in the mountains.

If you’re keen to learn more of the work Snow-Camp do, be sure to check out the ‘Journey Movie’ on their website.

If Snow-Camp’s unique story has got you itching to get out onto the slopes, why not pick out your snowsports equipment and grab the next chairlift!

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