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. I can still remember my instructor’s name, Oscar. Having taken group ski lessons whilst there, I took part in an end-of-course ski race and won bronze, proudly taking my place on the podium. The smile on Oscar’s face was so exciting to see.
“In my early 20s, I went to live in Australia and got a job at the Kosciuszko Ski Centre in Sydney selling their equipment and clothing, as well as running their rental department. I even did some modelling for them at trade shows; I still can’t believe I did that! My younger brother, Will, soon joined me in Australia, taking up the role of driver to ferry kit and equipment from Sydney down to Thredbo in the snowy Mountains. We had the time of our lives!
“Prior to Australia, the whole family had an amazing opportunity to fly to Oslo, Norway, to spend an amazing week up in the mountains, living in a log cabin with our great friend and guide Kiel Damslett, breaking the ice on the river for water in the morning and cross-country skiing all day. He taught us the skills he had learnt during and before WW2 when he was in the Norwegian resistance, hiding out in the mountains. Extraordinary 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 cricket, tennis, scuba diving and sailing. I have attempted to surf and snowboard but haven’t quite mastered them yet!”
If you had to name one adventure you have experienced, what would it be?
Well, I could say, sailing ‘Gretel 1’ (Australian Americas Cup yacht) up the East coast of Australia; sailing ‘The Daily Telegraph’ Challenge yacht in the Round Britain Race (we came third); sailing ‘Solo’ (one of Australia’s most famous Sydney Hobart yachts) 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 in 2012, from Gran Canaria to St Lucia.
“We were halfway across the Atlantic in Maunie, a 38 ft. Vancouver. It was 2am and my watch. A few nights prior, we had made it through a huge storm. The three other crew members were getting their well-deserved shut-eye down below.
“There’s nothing to see as far as the horizon. The nearest land was 12,000 below us through the black of the Atlantic Ocean or 2000km ahead of us which was the island of St Lucia. No other yachts, just the sound of the wind and water rushing by below the keal.
“The sky was clear, full of planets and shooting stars going in every direction. I was thinking of my brother Will who had died 12 months before from pancreatic cancer. It was a very emotional watch; a beautiful time, 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 sports company delivering coaching to children and adults.”
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 company and sat there with a blank piece of paper contemplating my life and batting average. My daughter, Sophie, mentioned about becoming a ski instructor at The Snow Centre in Hemel Hempstead as it had just opened. And that was it, the beginning of my future. Now to make it work.
“After two years of instructing for The Snow Centre, it was then I had the amazing good fortune to meet James, and his mum Helen.
“James was in his late twenties, with a mix 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, and the blessing of The Snow Centre team, 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 so many truly 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.”