Exeter, Devon UK • Apr 18, 2024 • VOL XII

Exeter, Devon UK • [date-today] • VOL XII
Home Sport Forum Freezes over for Chill Hill

Forum Freezes over for Chill Hill

Harry Craig, Print Deputy Editor, went to Forum Hill to watch Snowsports Exeter host Chill Hill for the first time in seven years.
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Chill Hill, Snowsports Exeter
Image: Kieran Moore, Snowsports Exeter

Although February was unseasonably mild, Snowsports still found a way to bring a small slice of the Alps to Exeter on the 17th February, as Chill Hill returned to campus for the first time since 2017.

This was a project of epic proportions. 50 tonnes of snow were shipped in from Milton Keynes to create a ski slope down Forum Hill, and thousands of students flocked to campus on a Saturday for an après-ski festival atmosphere.

The event spotlight was on the freestyle competition, featuring competitors from six different universities on skis and snowboards for five awards. The slope was converted into a mini Slopestyle course, comprising a rail feature followed by a jump.

As the sun set over Forum Hill, the finals began, despite the gentle drizzle that began to fall that the spectators all wished was snow instead. The tricks got gradually bigger (and more dangerous!) as the competition progressed, and although plenty ended up on their backsides, with skis flying off or even with a bloody nose, there were some impressive efforts, including from local 11-year-old ‘Mini Mad Max’ (Maximus Baxter-Fox), who won the men’s skiing competition.

On the women’s side, Jenna Brennan won the women’s skiing competition. For those who preferred to strap into a snowboard, rather than two skis, Dorset’s Mason King won best snowboarder. There were also two other less serious categories, for Best Outfit (won by Jamie) and Most Falls (won by Ross).

50 tonnes of snow were shipped in from Milton Keynes to create a slope down Forum Hill.

Snowsports’ Race Captain Max Fairfull told Exeposé that, despite not competing, he “can safely speak for all the racers at the event that we had the most amazing time.” He went on to say that he “couldn’t be prouder of our freestyling counterparts, with a shoutout to Oli’s knees because f*** knows how the man is still walking.”

Away from the purely competitive efforts, the finals were preceded by a two-hour freestyle jam to showcase some of the competitors’ biggest and best tricks. Meanwhile, the day began with an adaptive skiing exhibition, opening up the day’s events to local disabled skiers, who took to the slopes on sit-skis.

This was an important reminder that the event was fundraising for Disability Snowsports UK, a charity which aims to provide opportunities in skiing and snowboarding for people with disabilities. As accessibility to disability sport at an elite level has increased over the last decade, with British success in Paralympic snowsport including three Paralympic gold medals, Chill Hill proved that this access was just as important at a grassroots level.

This is something that Snowsports Exeter have been keen to promote, introducing adaptive skiing sessions to their regular weekly training programme at Clifton Hill Dry Slope since September. This has made Exeter the first British university to have an adaptive ski team.

Exeter is the first British university to have an adaptive ski team.

Ollie Rudzinski, part of this team, told ITV at the event: “Really it’s quite tough to begin with to get the balance right and get your arms figured out. After a while you get the hang of it. It’s such a cool piece of kit to be able to ski.”

Away from the slope, Snowsports endeavoured to bring a taste of the après-ski atmosphere to campus, with food stalls, bars and live music. The event was sponsored by Red Bull and Jubel, and consequently both were consumed in copious quantities throughout the day. Meanwhile, the queue at the Ram Bar was seen stretching outside the entrance throughout the day.

Music was provided by a variety of DJs from Hijacked Festival, headlined by Higgo, described as “one of the best breakthrough Garage artists in the UK. Higgo was preceded by Exeter student DJ Faultline, who told Exeposé that the day was an “amazing event, not only being able to showcase what I and our DJs have to offer, but being a part of University history! Even with the rain, it was an awesome event from start to finish. Having this community really makes the difference between any other university.”

Once the prizes had been given and the competitive side of the day concluded, the slope was opened up to spectators, who were given the opportunity to go sledging down the hill. One of those attendees, Charlotte, told Exeposé: “There was a great atmosphere on Chill Hill. At first we were all worried that the skiers and snowboarders were embarking on a suicide mission and that they’d break their necks on the rock hard snow. But somehow that didn’t faze them – it was very impressive!”

Final-year student Scarlett echoed these sentiments, stating that, “when coming to Exeter, I never expected to see Forum Hill turn into a ski slope. The mix of DJ sets, drinks, food and snowsports made a perfect après vibe on campus. It was the best break from the chaos of term two.”

The crowds then flocked from campus into the city centre to continue the celebrations at the Timepiece After-Party event, with even greater quantities of alcohol consumed late into the night to celebrate a successful return of Chill Hill to Exeter. Although there were some murmurs that this would become an annual tradition, Snowsports reaffirmed that it will not.

Chill Hill’s return for the first time since 2017 will therefore live long in the memories of the thousands who attended on the day – even if the sore heads on Sunday morning indicate that those memories may be a bit blurry for some.

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