Ski slope maker Briton Engineering promotes snow sports to Chinese

Terry Di Stasi, director of business development at Briton Engineering in Scholes near Holmfirth. Picture Tony Johnson
Terry Di Stasi, director of business development at Briton Engineering in Scholes near Holmfirth. Picture Tony Johnson
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A company which designs and manufactures artificial snow slopes hopes to complete its first major project in China in December, almost 12 months later than expected.

Briton Engineering, based in Scholes, near Huddersfield, will use its Snowflex surface technology to create a combined main and nursery snowsports slope at Global Harbour in Shanghai, in association with Shanghai Vankoo Sports Management Co.

It follows the installation of a Snowflex training slope at Vankoo in Shanghai last year. Briton Engineering said that upon completion, the 19,000 sq ft synthetic snowsports slope at Wufengxi Park will be the first major project in China surfaced with the Snowflex surface system.

Construction is due to begin early October with an anticipated opening in December this year. It was originally due to be installed in November 2018 but funding delays meant the installation is almost a year later than expected.

Usually Briton engineers install the Snowflex technology themselves but managing director Brian Thomas, who invented Snowflex, said for this project his employees would train up to 10 Chinese engineers on how to do it themselves. “It’s an unsual way of doing it,” he said. “It’s quite a technical job and it takes our boys some years to develop the skills they’ve gained.”

The slope will be managed and operated by Shanghai Vankoo Sports Management.

Terry Di Stasi, Briton’s director of business development, said that Briton was thrilled to be part of such a prestigious new development, adding that he hoped it would further develop and grow snowsports in China.

The idea of adding a snow-free ski slope began a few years ago when Briton’s Chinese representative Lin Lin of Shanghai X-EDGE Sports Development Co. and his team of architects investigated ways to boost the product offering of Wufengxi Park to the residents of the Chengdu area.

The slope will also promote skiing and snowboarding as mainstream sporting activities in line with the Chinese government’s desire to get 300 million people into the sport in readiness for the Beijing Winter Olympics in 2022.

The snowsports area is designed to cater for all skill levels from “nervous novices” through to “extreme experts”. It is envisaged that the slope will hold regular freestyle events to further promote snowsports in China. The beginner’s area will also be designed for tubing.

Mr Thomas said he hopes that the project will act as a catalyst for further Chinese contracts. “The language barrier makes China a difficult country to do business in,” he said. “But we’d like to do more work out there.”

The company, which employs 10 people, currently has £150m worth of projects in the pipeline. “They’re not all going to happen and we don’t know how long they will tak if they do,” said Mr Thomas. “It can be quite frustrating.”

Snowflex is a synthetic snowsports system, on which people can ski, snowboard and go tubing. It was invented by Brian Thomas, who founded Briton as a ski lift manufacturer in 1979, and was launched to the market in 1996.

The firm spent the first decade after it was launched building or replacing synthetic slopes in the UK. Over the last 10 years it has expanded overseas, completing over 20 projects in South Africa, Turkey, France, Spain, Switzerland, Germany, Lithuania, Estonia and the US.

The production of Snowflex is a closely guarded secret. It is made from a monofilament fibre woven into a matrix. Snowflex tiles are made from the slippiest plastic made on the market.