A British Olympian who didn’t experience summer for nearly four decades has joined Australia’s first indoor snow resort and alpine facility management team in one of the hottest places on Earth.
Former Australian national winter sports team coach Stephen Edwards is the high-performance snowsports coach and program director at the soon-to-be-built Winter Sports World (WSW) in Penrith, NSW.
A magnet for elite snow and ice athletes, WSW will be a training field for nine Olympic sports – alpine skiing, freestyle skiing, snow board, figure skating, ice hockey, speed skating, curling with the possibility of catering for cross country and biathlon.
“I don’t think it’s a big stretch of the imagination to think that Winter Sports World will become one of the top 10 high performance training centres in the world,” site developer Peter Magnisalis said.
“Stephen’s involvement adds international credibility and attention to the development as an elite competition and participation sporting venue. We are very fortunate to have him on board.”
He began talks four years ago with Edwards, who represented Britain in alpine skiing at the 1992 Winter Olympic Games.
Edwards, who lives in Australia but works around the world, was integral in the setup and ongoing operation programs of the UK’s first snow centre (Snowdome) in Tamworth in the mid-1990s.
He has been involved in snow sport coaching for more than 30 years, including World Cup coach for Australia and Denmark, national team coach for England, program director for European Development & Excellence Program and head coach for Perisher Winter Sports Club and Mt Buller Race Club.
Edwards is a former Snow Sports Australia national team selector, snowsports England tutor and athletes he has trained have had success at the highest level including world cups, world championships, Olympic Games, Youth Olympic Games, international children’s races and national champions in alpine skiing and snowboard.
Winter Sports World will be a linchpin of Penrith’s sporting venue offering which already includes Sydney International Regatta Centre and Penrith Whitewater Rafting, a major football stadium, and competitive cricket, netball, and shooting and archery grounds.
Winter Sports World will remove the disadvantage of Australian snow and ice athletes currently having to decamp for months every year to expensive overseas training facilities away from their support networks.
“Athletes from nearly every country in the world train in indoor centres,” Edwards said.
“It guarantees their time on the snow so they can focus on technique without variables like weather and piste conditions.”
However, the development will be accessible and affordable to all, with learn-to-ski/ snowboard classes, school and community group excursions and casual visits by locals encouraged.
While Australia has more than 1 million regular snowsport enthusiasts just to the NSW resorts of which about 700,000 are in Sydney, another 4.5 million people do not ski because they cannot access the snow.
“It’s just too hard for them to go there or too expensive so they haven’t been introduced to it,” Mr Magnisalis said.
Growing up in the UK with access to a dry ski slope only, skiing was challenging for Edwards, who took up the sport at age eight.
“If I was going to make it to top level competition I needed to move to the snow,” he said.
“At 16, I had to make a huge life-changing decision to follow my dreams and moved to the French alps on my own.
“I didn’t experience another summer without snow until Covid took hold on the world in 2020.’’