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Wimbledon Clinics

Off piste and personal… with Sally Bartlett, owner of Ski Bartlett

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Sally Bartlett is the owner of Ski Bartlett, which supplies equipment to skiers both novice and professional. We asked her about her career in ski racing and the kit we need this season…

How did you get into skiing?
I was nine years old, and my family were debating whether we went on a sun- or a snow-focused holiday that year. The vote went to skiing, and we ended up in the mountains of Schladming, in Switzerland. It was my first time on skis — and I was soon hooked.

How did Ski Bartlett come about?
It started back in 1965, when my grandparents started selling tents and caravan accessories. Their hero product was a ‘trailer tent’, a sort of collapsible caravan, which they made in their sitting room (the only snag was getting it out of the house — they had to remove the front window!). They opened their first shop with a one-hundred-pound loan from the bank, 54 years ago. When they retired, my father took over, and I started to get involved.

When did ski equipment become the focus?
When my father took over the store, I was ski racing competitively — and that’s when the ski side really took off. Initially, we saw it as a way to supply racing kit to people who couldn’t get it elsewhere — we started selling from a big box in the back of a van — then, gradually, the shop got bigger, and the ski equipment started to take over the camping accessories. The next step was a mobile shop, and we would tour all of the big ski events throughout the year. To this day, we’re on the road from Easter until October.

Who are your clients?
Everyone — we supply kit for professional ski racing, telemark, cross-country, freeride, snowboarding, off-piste… everything from gloves to avalanche kits. I guess you could say that we’ve become all things, to all skiers — from beginners to professional. Though sometimes it feels like a crazy madhouse!

How did you get into ski racing?
I started racing when I was 12 years old, and carried on until I was in my early twenties. Initially it was UK-based, then gradually I began travelling to Europe for race camps and competitions. I spent four winters in America at a ski academy, on the East Coast in Vermont, and then in New Hampshire. But, as with any sport, you get to a certain age, and it dawns on you that to reach the next step is going to take either a lot of funding, or truly exceptional skill. I was in the British team at the time, but I made the decision to stop racing, and went into the shop. But I continued with the ski race coaching — and I still do it today. I also spend a lot of time testing racing kit out on the slopes; after all, it’s important that we know how the products that we sell in the shop perform on the snow.

What are the latest trends in ski kit?
Everything is becoming lightweight. The newer, lightweight skis feel easier on the snow, and they can also cover a broader spectrum of ability levels — plus they enable you to cover more varied terrain. Lighter skis and boots also mean that people can ski for longer in a day, and are less tired on the slopes — so hopefully they mean less injuries, too.

Have you ever injured yourself through skiing?
Yes — a few years ago, I was doing a ski test and skied into a colleague on the slopes. It’s the sort of thing that happens once in a blue moon, but I broke my jaw in two places and had to have it operated on. Luckily, it healed well. Then, last January I was skiing off-piste and caught an edge: I did a double somersault and landed heavily. My back and shoulder have felt a bit dodgy ever since, but still, I jumped up and carried on — for me, that tends to be better than stopping and freezing up in the cold.

How can skiers stay injury-free?
Since my last fall, I’ve been seeing an amazing strength and conditioning coach, who prescribes specific exercises to get my back and shoulders working again. We do very simple body weight stuff, but the structural difference since I started has been huge. I recommend him to everyone, from ski racers to novices.