Ski fans hit Ulster slopes for fun in snow

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THE Mourne Mountains aren’t top of anybody’s list when it comes to leading ski resorts – but the recent spell of heavy snowfall has changed all that.

Despite avalanche warnings, skiers who might normally pay hundreds of pounds to travel to resorts in Europe and North America are instead taking to the legendary mountains in their own back yards.

Paul Byrne, a photographer, was in the mountains just above Spelga Dam on Saturday morning. He said around 30 people had gathered to ski, snowboard and sled down Slieve Muck.

And skiing on nearby Slieve Bearnagh was Paul Swail, who offers mountaineering, mountain-biking and rock-climbing courses in the Mournes with his business Rock and Ride Outdoors. The 31-year-old has been skiing since 2005 and had just finished a session yesterday when he spoke to the News Letter.

He said the conditions were better in the Mournes recently than in some European resorts.

“Currently, with the amount of snow we have been getting the conditions are amazing. The lee slopes, slopes that are sheltered from the wind, are particularly good,” he said.

Initial snowfall had been slightly damp but had consolidated quickly in the protracted cold weather, making it fairly uniform and soft, said Paul. He added: “Last week I was skiing in Switzerland and the conditions today were better.”

Although he said some people had a negative attitude to the snow, for people who enjoyed an outdoor lifestyle it had been “brilliant”.

“There’s nothing you can do about the weather. We should just get out there and make the most of it, be it sledding with the kids or a walk in the woods.”

On Saturday Paul Trimble, a rescue volunteer, told the News Letter that people should stay away from “extremely hazardous” mountains, adding that the snow could collapse.

Paul Swail said that while most of the snow over which he had skied was “pretty secure” there were times when it felt “a bit flabby”.

Meanwhile, searchers have found the body of a skier who went missing on Saturday in an avalanche near Glencoe Ski Centre in the Highlands. He was named as Daniel Maddox from Clackmannanshire.