WHEN Ski Rossendale opened in September 1973, at 500m it boasted the longest artificial ski slope and largest facility of its kind in the UK.

Now, plans are in place for a 50th anniversary celebration event at The Hill – the new name for the centre off Haslingden Old Road, Rawtenstall.

There will be an open day on Saturday June 10 from 10am to 5pm and a limited ticket evening after-party.

Manager Dave Fuller was one of the first to learn how to ski when, aged 13, on November 5 1973, he took instructions from the original chief ski instructor Jean Marchal.

As far back as December 1963, keen skier Michael Parsons from Waterfoot held a meeting to form Rossendale Ski Club as the snowy winters had meant the hills around the Valley had become popular for skiers in the winter months.

At the time it was mooted that Rossendale could become ‘a winter sports centre’ and 10 years’ later, and three years in the planning and construction, the £58,000 slope opened and plans began to revive the once-flourishing ski club.

Dave said: “The ski slope is a legacy and it is one we need to ensure is here for future generations to use and to look after. We are proud to have indirectly built on that vision that was first had back in 1963 and created and all year round ‘winter sports centre’.

“The ski slope is all about people and emotion. We are a not-for-profit business and we are all about people enjoying sport and having a positive experience whether as part of a group or an individual.

“So many people have memories of learning to ski at the slope and we want to hear from them. We will be creating a display of key dates for the celebration and we want people’s memories to be a part of that.”

Sales and Marketing Director at Rossendale-based J and J Ormerod Jon Thelwell recalled: “In 1982, I was at school in Hyde and we came to Ski Rossendale to learn how to ski because we were going on a school skiing trip to Italy. I went skiing abroad three times with school and each time we came to Rossendale to prepare us so that we had the confidence to ski on snow.”

On June 10, taster sessions in skiing, snowboarding and tubing will be on offer at £10 for 45 mins; these must be booked in advance online on https://thehilluk.com experienced skiers and snowboarders can use the main slope for free.

Stalls will be set up on the car park, Rossendale Drum Majorettes and Lighthouse Tai Chi will be holding displays, a DJ will play music and artistes Resist the New and Jim Rhodes will play live.

The Ski Rossendale Yeti mascot will be appearing, there will be children’s rides, guest stars, local craft stalls and Ninja café will be open.

The evening ‘after-party’ will be at the rooftop café and on the beginner’s slope with entertainment from duo The Difference. There are just 100 tickets available costing £10 and the event starts at 7.30pm.

The site was officially opened in September 15 1973 saw the official opening by Sir Jack Longland, vice-chairman of the North West Sports Council and conqueror of Everest, and three members of the British Olympic Ladies’ Ski Team.

Then in November 1973, then Prime Minister Edward Heath visited the slope. Eddie ‘the Eagle’ Edwards has visited twice – the first time to jump over cars – and world downhill skiing champ Franz Klammer also visited.

Please share your recollections of learning to ski by emailing dave@thehilluk.com

History

1969 – North West Sports Council recognise the potential of Ski Rossendale being of ‘major regional importance’.

1972 – Initial plans drawn up.

1973 – Slope opens September 15.

1979 – Additional £50k funding in the site and extra £80k in a new tow in October.

1980 – Ellis Brigham Shop completed and opened.

1985 – Grant of £200k secured from EEC.

1986 – Mystery buyer offers council £1.2million for slope, is rejected.

1987 – London-based company try to take over site offering £1.1million investment but wanting 125-year lease, offer withdrawn as council only offering 25-year lease.

1994 – Further £380k investment.

2011 – Slope closes in March and Ski Rossendale Social Enterprise wins tender to take over facility, which reopens at the end of summer.

2016 – Improver and Beginners’ slope built – funding by Sport England Lottery Funding.

2018-9 – A new ski hire building is constructed along with toilets, changing rooms and a new café with rooftop terrace with views over the slopes and down the Valley.

2020 – Social enterprise merges with Rossendale Leisure Trust.

2021 – The Hill reopens after the coronavirus lockdown.- Cathrine Smyth Media.