We thought it would be great to hear a bit more about the scenes and teams that make up Championship Skiing so in this, our first CSS interview, we check in with Row Emery to hear more about the freestyle scene at Stoke.
Hi Row! Thanks for doing our first CSS interview! From what we saw when we visited one of the freestyle nights at Stoke, it is clear you guys have a really lively and well loved scene. So why don’t we start with that? How often are the Stoke freestyle nights, do you have a specific name for them and have they been running a while?
R: Over the past couple of years the scene at Stoke has really taken off. Our scene is like one big ski family, newbies are welcomed with open arms and everyone is equal. The sessions are every Wednesday evening 19:00 – 21:00, we just call it ‘Wednesday Night Freestyle’. They have been running for about 6 years now, since Russ Boulton and Andy Topping set them up, just after the big jump was built in the summer of 2011.
How many people go along to the freestyle nights on average?
R: We regularly have 20-30 people on the slope and in some cases a lot more, with people traveling far and wide from around the Midlands. Ages of skiers and snowboarders range from 5 years old to 30 plus. It’s a friendly, diverse and positive scene, bringing more new faces to the sport year on year.
As far as we can tell, you pretty much run the freestyle scene at Stoke. How did you become involved and what do you do to try and help the scene thrive?
R: I began volunteering at the slope when I was about 15 years old. Back then a guy named Russ Boulton was the manager and he kick started the revival of the notorious Stoke Massive back in the summer of 2011. This was the year the big jump was built, using materials the ski centre had lying around or cheap alternatives. It was the passion of volunteers like myself, James Cartlidge and many more that made this dream a reality. At first we were skeptical whether it would work. However, after a few tweaks of the in-run, it couldn’t have been more perfect for the small amount of space we had to work with.
After that I began training as an instructor and doing more voluntary work at the club. After I finished college, I was working at the slope full time. By then it was Rob Hackney and myself running and coaching on Wednesday nights. I then took on the responsibility of slope set-up every week, doing my best to keep it fresh with new and creative set-ups each week. Now we have full slope set-ups with 8 or 9 features including basic features for people who are learning and more difficult features to challenge the experts. It was all about the perfect environment for all ages and abilities to progress together, while also making a small dry-slope a lot more exciting.
I coached the advanced levels of junior club on Saturday and Sunday mornings, this is where the likes of young guns Ted and Will came from. They soon became too good for lessons. I would have them doing a full run of turns on one leg whilst holding a grab, both way 180s across the slope between turns – you name it they could do it. So, I suggested that they came down to ski on a Wednesday night and the rest was history. I’d say that is where my freestyle coaching began. Many more kids started to get involved from the junior club lessons and elsewhere from other slopes, so the scene began to grow more and more each year.
I now do most of the coaching with some help from others from time to time. It’s super relaxed, if you need coaching myself and other riders provide it. If not everybody just cracks on with the session and has fun.
When did you start skiing and have you always skied at Stoke? Do you ski elsewhere in the UK or abroad? And what are your own goals with your skiing?
R: I started skiing when I was 5 years old, freestyle at 13 years old – always at Stoke Ski Centre. When I first started freestyle it was just myself and a few school friends that regularly went down to the slope on a Friday evening, back then there was no jump and we had to pull the only feature (the blue gas pipe) onto the slope ourselves. Most of the slope was poorly maintained and looked like it was about to shut down any day. However I kept going back, now I’m glad that I did.
I do my best to get about to as many different slopes as possible since I passed my driving test back in 2014. I do a lot of filming and traveling with Ski The Kingdom every summer and as many events as I can. I spent last winter working for Planks Clothing out in The Three Valleys, this winter I’m planning on being more UK based and doing a few different film trips here and there. I really enjoy skiing with The Snow Centre squad at Hemel and Tamworth is always good fun.
For myself skiing wise, I’d just like travel around, have lots of fun, do some tricks and hopefully have plenty of content to show for it when I’m an old man. My main goal is to spread the love I have for skiing onto as many people as possible in the UK and beyond. I currently have something in the pipeline, but it’s still under wraps at the moment….
You recently did some coaching qualifications – something that CSS offered to the teams involved in last years league. Is that something you’d like to do more with and go further down this pathway as a career choice?
R: I did yes, thank you for that. Oh yea absolutely, if I had the opportunity to do so! We have something special here in the UK. Even if I didn’t take it up as a full time career, I would still be as heavily involved as I could be within the sport.
It’s clear you have masses of talent at Stoke from 5 year old Hunter to some of the more well known names such as Justin Taylor-Tipton. Why do you think Stoke has such a vibrant scene and how do you personally approach helping such a wide range of kids and adults all at different levels to progress on their skiing week in week out?
R: I’ve said it many times and I’ll say it again, it’s all about the vibes. I do my best to give as much coaching and guidance as I can in the most relaxed manner, but generally at Stoke everyone helps each other. We all get as stoked on each other’s tricks, as if we were the one landing them for the first time. That is the key to a positive environment for the progression of action sports I think.
What place does freestyle play in the grand scheme of things at Stoke? The owners and managers must be pretty chuffed at the talent that is being home grown out of the Stoke Ski Centre? Do you have support for new features or is that down to the freestyle crew to take care of?
R: Well, freestyle isn’t the bread and butter at Stoke but we do have a history of producing some of the most talented skiers and snowboarders over the years. They should be stoked – I would hope! We get some support yes, but most of the features are made up from wood, recycled metal and gas pipes etc. However, there are still lots of projects to be done that we don’t have the money for yet. A lot of the stuff that happens is down to the freestyle crew and volunteers.
OK thats probably enough questions for now. Anyone we should be looking out for at Stoke?
R: Keep an eye out for everyone. #StokeMassiveYo and check out these videos:
Throwback to the many fun sessions at Stoke Ski Centre Snowsports filming this section for "God Save The Scene" (The Ski The Kingdom Film)Full Film available free online now… https://vimeo.com/192959529#SkiTheKingdom
Posted by Ski The Kingdom on Thursday, 20 April 2017