How it all began
Meet Richard Fetherston, the Founder of Snowbility, as he shares an insight into his passion for sport, adventures overseas, and where the idea came from to start Snowbility.
Where did your love of snow sports come from?
“I started to learn to ski at the age of nine on a dry ski slope in Bowles Outward Bound Centre in Kent. School trips to Hocksolden in Austria followed this but my true love for the sport kicked in during a family trip to Galtur when I was 15 years old. Having taken private ski lessons whilst on holiday, I took part in an end-of-course ski race and won bronze, proudly taking my place on the podium.
“In my early 20s, I went to live in Australia and got a job at the Kosciosko Ski Centre in Sydney selling their equipment and clothing. I even did some modelling for them at trade shows; I still can’t believe I did that! My older brother, Will, soon joined me in Australia, taking up the role of driver to ferry kit and equipment to the mountains. We had the time of our lives!
“During this special time with my brother, we had an amazing opportunity to spend a week in Oslo cross-country skiing with Kiel Damslett. He taught us the skills he had learnt during and before WW2 when he was in the Norwegian resistance. Extra-ordinary man, never to be forgotten.”
Are there other sporting activities you enjoy?
“I grew up enjoying all sports at school and in later life. To this day, I still enjoy playing cricket, tennis, diving in international waters, and sailing. I have attempted to surf but haven’t quite mastered it yet!”
If you had to name one adventure you have experienced, what would it be?
“Well, I could say, sailing ‘Gretel 1’ (Americas Cup) up the East coast of Australia; sailing ‘The Daily Telegraph’ in the Round Britain Race; sailing ‘Solo’ in the Whitsunday Islands, or diving on the Great barrier Reef.
“But I would have to put it down to one amazing moment on the Atlantic race, from Gran Canaria to St Lucia.
“We were halfway across the Atlantic in Maunie, a 38 ft. Vancouver. It was 2am and my watch; the three other crew members were getting their well-deserved shut-eye.
“There’s nothing to see for miles; no sound, apart from the lapping of water against the boat.
“The sky was clear and full of stars, some shooting from all directions. Beautiful, an inspirational moment to treasure.”
Before you started Snowbility in 2011, what were you doing?
“I ran my own direct marketing business and dreamt about scoring hundreds at cricket or starting up a company delivering snow sports coaching.”
Where did the passion come from to start Snowbility?
“After 15 years of running my direct marketing business, the time had come for a new challenge. I took the plunge and closed the business and sat there with a blank piece of paper contemplating my life. My daughter mentioned about becoming a ski instructor at The Snow Centre in Hemel and that is where I met my first student James, and his mum Helen.
“James was in his late twenties, with a mixture of health and learning issues. Leaving the safety of his own home for a public place created significant anxiety, with social and communication skills being a constant struggle for him. Learning to ski on a one-to-one basis changed his life and he is now a better skier than me!
“You can read more about his story here.
“Through their guidance and support, Snowbility was borne. We now have an amazing team of instructors and support staff who have all undergone intensive training in the world of additional needs and mental health.
“During this time, I have met some inspirational people, who have all helped to make Snowbility the business it is today. Thank you.”
What is your dream for Snowbility?
“To continue to be a leader in the field of snow sports coaching to students with additional needs and mental health challenges. We want to help our students fulfil their dreams of being an inspiration to their family, friends and other people in the same situation as them.”