50 Years of Skiing at Cumbria Dry Slope

It’s a very special golden anniversary this winter for the Carlisle Snowsports Club and its dry slope on the England-Scotland border.

The centre was founded in 1972 with the slope on the hill above and to the side of Carlisle cricket pitch.

Eric Barlow helped lay the original matting and began skiing on the slope that same year.

He had been introduced to the sport few years earlier by his father when he was 10 years old.

A young Eric Barlow – photo © Eric Barlow

Born and bred in Cumbria, the now 62-year-old ski instructor runs the centre – a non-profit organisation.

He takes the bookings, delivers lessons, does the maintenance and the marketing.

In Eric’s own words he “writes the theme tune, sings the theme tune”.

Eric Barlow – photo © Cameron Hall

It’s not been an easy job.

The centre has been flooded several times in recent years and the climate crisis has threatened its very survival.

One of the many floods at the the centre (2015) photo © Eric Barlow

In the early days, the slope attracted mainly climbers and walkers – those who had a passion for the outdoors.

“As the club evolved and word of mouth spread, more people started to come – particularly parents and their children who were set to go on ski holidays to the mountains,” Eric told PlanetSKI.

“It used to be people joining the club for a social side, which you see at clubs with teams. But we tend to have people who turn up to use the facility as more of a gym on the hill and they go off from there.

“So we’re more of an aid to help equip people for getting ready for their holidays to the mountains, more so now than the social entity the club started out as.”

Eric says he has no plans to retire.

“I’ll die with my ski boots on. That’s the plan!” he said.

Eric Barlow – photo © Eric Barlow

Eric and the dry slope are featured in a film produced by Cameron Hall to mark the 50th anniversary.

Cameron is a former ski instructor and the Founder and Director of the adventure sports PR agency, Holmlands.

“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,” Cameron said.

“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 had a big influence in that, and obviously has helped to create a pathway into the sport for thousands of people in the UK to experience the joy of skiing each year.

“He’s quite a character and his passion for the centre and the sport is amazing, inspiring and impressive!”

Eric Barlow – photo © Cameron Hall

A Cumbrian Ski Story has recently been released online.

You can watch it here: