Dozens of skiers enjoyed surprise sessions out on the snow this week as the Lake District became the envy of Europe’s top ski resorts — in May!
An unexpected snowfall overnight into Wednesday left the North Lakes’ fells with a spectacular white covering on high ground, while there was no trace of a flake down in Keswick or surrounding villages.
Members of the Lake District Ski Club were quick to take advantage of the snow on Raise, which was thigh-deep where it drifted, and their ski lift was promptly set up and used on successive days.
“It was an absolutely fantastic surprise. The Lake District has had the only lift-assisted skiing in western Europe this week,”said a delighted club president Mike Sweeney.
He added: “The lower chair at Glencoe (in Scotland) was taking people up to snow but they had no lift running after that, unlike us. I think there is the odd one in Finland but the Alpine resorts, which did open this winter during lockdown, will now have closed.
“Wednesday was great and although there was poor visibility on Thursday, it was still a massive bonus getting out after the winter we have had in lockdown. We are the only ski club in western Europe running a ski lift this week.
“Everyone thoroughly enjoyed themselves. There were about 30 today (Thursday) and about 40 yesterday, mostly members and a few guests.
The drifts up there were thigh deep and in other places there was a scraping.”
It was the first time since January that there had been snow on Raise and ironically, Mike had been unable to ski back then because he lives in Lancashire and was not allowed to travel to Cumbria because of local lockdown restrictions.
We caught Mike on his way to the top on Wednesday morning and he described the conditions as “pristine” with pictures on the club webcam showing everything white and sparkly.
“This is a real bonus and worth every step up hill. There are five or six skiers up in front of me all ready to enjoy the run.
Founded in 1936, the club operates a 360-metre button tow on Raise, next to Helvellyn.
An hour’s walk from the mines at Glenridding, Raise is positioned for the best snow in the Lakes and the tow gives access to a substantial part of the mountain. There are up to nine runs available, depending on prevailing conditions, the longest of which is almost a mile.
What caught out most people was the fact the snow came in May — well into spring — as opposed to the winter months.
Keswick’s weather expert Lorna H G Holden said there had been snow on the fells earlier in May two years ago — but not as much as this year. It was in stark contrast to the torrential rain on Bank holiday Monday which had followed one of the driest Aprils on record for Keswick and most of the rest of the UK.
A total of 65mm of rain fell on Monday and Tuesday this week.
Lorna said: “This is a sizeable proportion of the monthly rainfall of 79mm. The equivalent of about 30mm of that would have fallen as snow on the highest fells, that equates to about 30cm or 12 inches —though I’m not climbing up there to measure it!
According to the Visit Cumbria climate page: “In 1888 snow fell on the higher Cumbrian fells on July 10 and Skiddaw was white the next morning!”
Have you taken advantage of the snow? We’d love to see your pictures! Email firstname.lastname@example.org