'We thought this is it, you know, it was lovely, it really was': The early days of Folkestone Ski Centre, and its importance to pupils at the Harvey Grammar School


'We thought this is it, you know, it was lovely, it really was': The early days of Folkestone Ski Centre, and its importance to pupils at the Harvey Grammar School


Peter Thomas


An excerpt from a recording of an oral history interview with Peter Thomas. Peter describes some of his early experiences on the ski slope at Folkestone Sports Centre, and how formative it was for many young skiers from the Harvey Grammar School - some of whom went on to ski professionally. Transcript attached.


Michael Romyn; Peter Thomas


Peter Thomas Oral History Recording


Kent's Sporting Memories


Interview recorded on 5 July, 2019


Kent's Sporting Memories


Peter Thomas Oral History Recording


MP3 (5:05)




Peter Thomas


Kent’s Sporting Memories Oral History Transcript (Excerpt)
Interviewee: Peter Thomas
Interviewer: Michael Romyn
Date: 5 July, 2019
Location: Peter Thomas’ home in Folkestone, Kent.
Recording Time: 17:05 – 22:10

Peter Thomas: Then I got involved taking obviously the boys down there for training before you go skiing, which is very important. A minimum of six lessons we would do. In the meantime I went on what’s called an ASSI course, an Artificial Ski Slope Instructor’s course, got through that and I think I was one of two in Lent – the first teachers to get that qualification to be able to teach on plastic. So that was going to be useful, obviously, because of course I could use that for the sports centre anyway, you know, not just for the school. And so to get the kids interested, I mean during the summer time we’d sort of rip up some of the slope, we had contacts, we got some other stuff, some other ski mat in, we fitted that together and we sort of cobbled together for a good number of years in actual fact doing that, working in the summer, getting new – when I say new equipment, we’d often go over to Sandown Park because that was a very good ski slope in its day, probably still is, don’t know, and we bought up some of their old boots and skis and what not and used them. This is for the sports centre, not for the Harvey, and so the lads got involved in it as well, you know, the actual building. There was no lift by the way, which was good in one way because of course you got fit! Tramping up the slope just to ski down, you got fit, yeah, so that was good. And I think that continued ‘till about – must have been late seventies, I would have thought, and then they changed to the best stuff, in those days and that was called Dendix, which is a bit like a toothbrush. It gave, you could actually feel your turn better, whereas with the hard plastic – very little give, very difficult to get a good feeling of a good ski turn. But Dendix allowed you to feel that. It was, those days, quite expensive, but then we had a lift as well, so we thought this is it, you know, it was lovely, it really was. And so really what happened was the boys worked a lot during their free time, weekends, some evenings. Learnt a bit about what happens in the shed behind where you fit everything up and so on, and ski maintenance and this sort of thing. And they did a bit of teaching as well, which was good, and the results we found when you took them skiing after training like that, were tremendous. And straight away you’d just over a day and a half say on the nursery slopes, and then you’re away with the instructor on the main slopes. And then the really good skiers, and this probably wouldn’t happen these days – health and safety – one of the hotels I used, I used to do the whole tour myself, in Italy – one of the small hotels I used, the proprietor there, he used to teach the Italian army skiing, and he took a great interest in our top skiers, so he’d take them off for the day and ski with them all over the mountain, which was incredible to have an instructor of that caliber, and he thoroughly enjoyed it. I say all day, he’s skiing with them in the morning then they ski all by themselves, which wouldn’t be allowed today of course, which I think is a shame but I can understand with all the present business of suing left, right and centre. But it’s a pity because of course the kids miss out, and those top skiers really knew the mountains, and they helped people who would have problems, you know, as they skied around. They enjoyed it! It was their life for a week or whatever, you know, and we built up a little racing squad and the lads did well in their racing, yeah, they became national champions. We skied against Scotland up in Edinburgh, that was exciting. We went to Norway with the British school children’s group, yep, it was good, it was good. And some of the lads of course went on to ski professionally afterwards, so it did work from very humble beginnings, yes.
MR: And I suppose a lot of that wouldn’t have happened without Folkestone Sports Centre’s ski slope?
PT: Oh it wouldn’t have happened, well, it wouldn’t have happened through me, no, that’s for sure. If we haven’t got a ski slope here, that would have been it, no.