London Ski Show – A History
11th March 2020 | Jane Peel, Chief Reporter
Last modified on May 9th, 2021
It was a fixture in the calendar for 46 years. But the Telegraph London Ski & Snowboard Festival has been axed. We look back on the history of the show.
The Ski Show – recently rebranded as the Telegraph Ski & Snowboard Festival – has seen many changes over the years.
As the 2016 event was under way we looked at back at its history and considered how it had changed over more than four decades.
Below we reproduce an edited version of that article.
First, here’s how we broke the news that the Festival had been scrapped:
THE SKI SHOW: NOW AND THEN
The sun came out as visitors arrived at Battersea Park in force and the 2016 event got under way.
Pro athletes including members of the GB Park & Pipe team gave demos on the 50ft kicker.
This was the spectacular finale of a lunchtime display, footage courtesy of Stuart Brass at The BRITS.
This was the second year at Battersea Evolution and the organisers were hoping changes they’d made would help boost visitor numbers.
In 2015 just over 25,500 people came to the show, 10,000 fewer than the previous year.
Ticket prices were reduced for 2016 and the show moved back to its traditional school half-term dates with new features, including free ice-skating to attract more families.
A golf buggy shuttle service through Battersea Park was new, following complaints that the venue was too far from public transport.
There were things to buy and holidays to book, but with so many deals and discounts available online, fewer skiers and snowboarders do their buying at the show and it no longer resembled the retail park it once did.
It’s one reason many retailers, tour operators and resorts have pulled out over the years.
The major snowsports store, Ellis Brigham, was the latest to abandon the show.
A big draw was Mount Battersea.
Back in 1973 things were very different.
It was the year Britain joined the Common Market, the power crisis plunged the country into a three-day week, women were admitted to the Stock Exchange for the first time.
And the Ski Show was born, the brainchild of an entrepreneur called Peter Anslow.
Crucially, his idea was backed by the then editor of the Daily Mail, Sir David English, whose support made it happen.
It was an innovation that helped open up the sport – once the preserve of the rich – to the masses.
The show started out at the Royal Horticultural Halls in Westminster – first at the old hall, then the new.
The show was the place to go for your mountain gear – and what gear it was.
Just take a look at the skis and boots in this film.
It used to have an official opening ceremony, with big names involved.
Really big names – the Italian slalom superstar Alberto Tomba, for example, and even Diana, Princess of Wales.
Michael Pettifer, the owner of the ski insurance specialists and PlanetSKI partner, MPI Brokers, has been to every show since it began.
“I can’t remember much about the first one. It was very small,” he says, “probably a couple of dozen stands.”
He says everything changed when a full dry ski slope was introduced at Earls Court in the late 70s.
“They had various activities going on at the slope during the day, and in the evening they would have presentations of ski teaching from different countries,” he says.
“There were shows with music, a DJ and lots of razzmatazz”.
This British Movietone footage is from the 1978 show at Earl’s Court.
In the early days at Earls Court Michael Pettifer was asked to organise races between teams from the City of London.
In 1981 he competed for Lloyds in full city attire.
On the last day of the show, before it opened to the public, racers from the ski industry competed against each other .
Unlike the public races, these races used the whole ski slope – and more.
“We couldn’t have the public there, it was too dangerous,” Michael says.
“At the bottom of the slope there was a 10-foot drop onto a concrete floor. We used to ski off the end and land on the floor.
“How none of us hurt ourselves I don’t know. It was horrendous”.
The show moved between Earls Court and Olympia for many years, first sponsored by the Daily Mail and then the Daily Telegraph.
It used to run for 10 days, over 2 weekends.
Huge stands were taken by some of the major snowsports retailers, sharing the exhibition space with representatives of hundreds of ski businesses and resorts from across the world.
In 2014 the show, which had by then already been cut back to 5 days, was shortened again to 4.
But the biggest transformation came in 2015, with the move to Battersea Park.
The Alpine Experience was born – chalet-style stalls selling authentic mountain food and drink, music, comedy, the 50ft kicker, with competitions and demos by elite athletes.
It was a big step away from being an exhibition and towards becoming an experience.
We rather liked it.
The 2016 London Ski & Snowboard Show took place at a tough time for the industry.
Brexit was looming, the pound was plummeting and inflation was on the rise – though it was nowhere the 1973 level.
Was it possible for the show’s decline to be halted?
It certainly seemed popular as the crowds queued for entry.
But now, five years after re-inventing itself, the Ski & Snowboard Festival is no more.
It lasted for 46 years and has had a pretty good innings.
Will anything replace it?
We’ll have to wait and see.