PINT-SIZED skiing sensation Amy Stokoe was in her element during the latest snowfall.
While most children get excited by a winter whiteout, it is an extra special treat for the Northumberland seven-year-old as it gives her the chance to try out her skills on the real thing.
Amy, who has been hurtling down the slopes since the age of two, was recently crowned the under 8s champion at a major UK skiing competition – The Rossendale Summer Ski Race League – the first time she had entered.
And the next year could see more people like Amy hitting the North’s slopes after Sport England announced it was doubling the budget for Snowsport England, part of which is to be ploughed into appointing two development officers tasked with boosting participation in the region and making skiing more accessible.
“She is totally fearless, and the speed she goes is amazing,” said Amy’s proud mother Helen Maltby, of Widdrington Village, who along with father David Stokoe, a landscape architect, is also a keen skier.
“If she’s going too fast, she just throws herself to the ground and just seems to bounce up again.
“Since she knew it was going to snow she has been hyper and woke up early so she could get out in it. She usually skis on the dry slope, so she is very excited when she gets the real thing.”
The family regularly travel to Silksworth Dry Ski Slope in Sunderland where Amy trains.
“It is a great sport for kids,” said Helen, who runs children’s music class Jo Jingles. “It has an image as being elitist, but it’s not really. It is a sport whole families can do together and also really good exercise. Amy is usually so quiet, but she is a different person when on her skis, her eyes just twinkle and it has given her so much confidence.
“She often races against people much older than her – even men in their 50s.”
There are currently dry ski slopes at Whickham Thorns Activity Centre, Gateshead and Silksworth Sports Complex and hardened skiers can head to Weardale Ski Club.
Ian Poynton of Snowsport England said: “We will be using the funding to try and improve accessibility in areas with low participation like the North East. This could see initiatives such as subsidized six-week ski programmes which we hope will then encourage regular participation.”
Page 2 - Region braced for weekend of Arctic weather >>
Region braced for weekend of Arctic weather
THE region is preparing for a fresh blast of snow as Arctic weather continues to hit the region.
Forecasters say we have not seen the worst of the wintry weather and are expecting up to 6cm (2.4in) of snow to fall later this week.
Temperatures will not get above freezing, and strong winds from the west are expected to create snowdrifts in some parts of the North East.
The worst of the weather is expected to come on Friday afternoon, with no let-up all weekend. People are being warned to plan their routes and check that roads are open before setting off on any journeys.
Dan Williams from the Met Office said: "We advise people to stay up to date with the forecasts and weather warnings. They should keep up to date with local traffic advice before they leave the house on Friday morning and make sure schools are still open before setting off on their journey."
Councils across the region are bracing themselves for the bad weather, and bosses at Newcastle City Council said they have gritters on stand-by. Rob Nichols, head of environmental services, said: "We will be reviewing the weather over the coming days and will be talking directly to the Met Office to assess how the latest cold spell could potentially affect Newcastle.
"We will also be regularly updating the council’s website, Facebook and Twitter accounts."
In Gateshead, extra teams of employees will be working to hand-grit paths and some estate roads.