Andrew Dempsey speaks to UCD Snowsports Club captain Sophie Hayes after a meteoric rise for the club in recent years
Certainly, one of the larger sport clubs on campus, the UCD Snowsports club are unique in a sense. With many clubs operating out of the UCD Sports Centre, Snowsports base themselves in Kilternan, nicely tucked away in the Dublin Mountains at the National Ski Club of Ireland. Skiing in Ireland? You may think that’s strange, and that it may be. However, the Ski Club of Ireland has been around since 1963, firstly in Goatstown before making the move southwards to Kilternan to its present day home.
Home to a wide variety of clubs, the Ski Club of Ireland host one of UCD’s most populous clubs in the UCD Snowsports Club. Possessing 493 members, and offering students an affordable entrance to the slopes, The University Observer caught up with club captain Sophie Hayes – who opened up the doors of the club to the public eye.
“Skiing is obviously something that people think is a very expensive sport to join and it is kind of isolated in that sense,” Hayes told the University Observer. “Through university you can ski for very cheap. Unless you’re part of a family who goes skiing regularly, you’re not going to get that opportunity otherwise. I think college is a really good time to pick it up. Most people who join the club have never skied before and they’re all looking for something new in that sense.
“Every week we have lessons in the ski club of Ireland in Kilternan. It’s on the border of Dublin and Wicklow about 20 minutes away from UCD. We go there twice a week. On Thursdays we do our regular training and races and on Friday there's freestyle. Freestyle is much more casual and it’s not just UCD, it’s all universities. We facilitate a bus from UCD to Kilternan twice a week and we subsidise the lessons. That’s the big one.
“We also have a good few social events and competitions. We have our colours competition coming up on the 16th of November and that’s against Trinity. We won it last year and have done so a good few times before. There’s intervarsity’s that take place during semester two which we have 14 of the 15 years it has been running so we’re killing it in that sense. Normally that’s with just DIT and Trinity but we do invite the other college’s in Ireland but they’re just less likely to show up. We also run a ball with a few clubs, and we do a few smaller events in the form of general nights out and all.”
While many join the club having never seen a slope before, Hayes revealed how she first came into contact with the sport, both outside and inside of UCD; “I learned to ski in Kilternan when I was eight, and when I was nine, I started racing there. From nine to 16 I as racing about twice a week in Dublin. I was skiing on carpets years before I went to snow, so I know how important the basic stuff is. You realise how important it is as it goes on.
“I joined the Snowsports club, and it was the only club I joined in first year. I went up to the tent, knew half the people on the committee and signed up and asked barely any questions bar when the day was, they skied on! It was something I just wanted to get involved in and it’s a sport I really enjoy. Probably my first trip because I went by myself. I was put in a room with three people I had never met before – I had only met them once or twice before and now that’s my main social group and I’m now the captain of the club so it’s a nice turnaround in that sense.
And it has certainly been a meteoric rise for the club in recent years, who were not even in existence at the turn of the century – “We were founded 15/20 years ago. It was really small, it was set up by a group of guys who used to teach me ski racing when I was younger,” Hayes noted. “They basically just wanted to go skiing and during their first year they took about 20/30 people away and last year we brought 240 people away and we’re looking at about 220 this year so the club has grown massively.”
While the club has certainly seen a seismic period of growth, priorities lie at home, with intervarsity's due to take place next semester; “The intervarsity’s are next semester. TID have a very strong ski community. There’s one lad Cormac Comerford who is probably going to be in the next winter Olympics there. There’s a lot of people around Ireland who ski regularly. From the group I was in in Kilternan, we spread out a bit.”With plenty of goings on at the club to look forward to in the next few months, there is still plenty of time to get involved with the club before their flagship trip away. Should you wish to get in contact with the club, you can contact them via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) Facebook (UCD Snowsports Club) or also on Instagram (@ucdsnowsports).