The results are in for the biggest democratic movement of 2016. Here are the winners of Fall-Line’s Best British Skiers of the Year gongs
OVERALL SKIER OF THE YEAR 2016 – AARON MCLEAN
With 41% of the 3612 votes cast, the late, great Aaron McLean beat the likes of James Woods, Paddy Graham and Dave Ryding to win our Best British Skier of the Year 2016 gong.
A talented freeskier, inspirational ski instructor and co-founder of British Freeride (the crew behind the award-winning backcountry ski movie Late – if you haven’t yet watched it, do it now), Aaron died while coaching in La Rosière back in March. But the 26-year-old’s mark on the UK ski industry lives on. No-one can explain this better than those who skied with him.
“Aaron would have found it crazy to receive this honour, yet it is extremely deserving. Humble in his nature yet courageous in his character, Aaron had the bravery to follow his vision, take calculated risks and act upon his dreams,” says friend and fellow ski coach Craig Robinson.
What was his dream? To make skiing his life. Aaron grew up in Edinburgh where he trained at Hillend, and after achieving his full BASI qualifications he taught in Saas Fee and Verbier in Switzerland, Treble Cone in New Zealand and more recently in Avoriaz in France’s Portes du Soleil. “When he talked about skiing, it came from his heart – he was always so passionate and motivated,” says Richy Taylor, one of Aaron’s best friends. “His endless enthusiasm for ski coaching was a joy to watch.”
That word ‘enthusiasm’ is something we heard repeatedly when speaking with Aaron’s friends, family and colleagues. “Aaron’s endless positive energy helped me and a huge number of others to the top of many mountains,” says Rob Kingsland, who co-founded British Freeride alongside Aaron. “He led the crew that bit further and higher. Not only did he share his love of the mountains with others, but he was able to rip down them when the time came, too.”
Ah yes, Aaron’s rather brilliant skills on two planks. “In Scotland especially, he tackled remote descents with more speed and grace then any before him,” says Rob. It was ripping the backcountry where Aaron particularly excelled – “it’s what made him tick and feel most alive,” says Richy – but really there was no place on the mountain where Aaron didn’t feel at home. “Aaron’s versatility on skis was his signature. He looked as comfortable in a race course as he did tackling a steep line or narrow couloir,” says Craig.
Aaron was seriously committed to, and excited about, helping the next generation of young freeride skiers in the UK access the backcountry, learn how to navigate it safely and ultimately compete on the world stage. “This is what British Freeride hopes to continue to do in the future,” says Aaron’s girlfriend, Amy Marwick. “I think that is his most important legacy.”
The runner-up for the Best British Skier of the Year 2016 title was alpine skier Dave Ryding, with 31% of the vote. Read his top five tips for skiing fast in the current issue of Fall-Line.
UP-AND-COMING SKIER OF THE YEAR 2016 – MENNA FITZPATRICK
A high turnout, national press coverage and a nail-biting finish. No, we’re not talking about the U.S. presidential election, but the vote for Fall-Line’s Best Up-and-Coming British Skier of the Year 2016. A mere 5713 votes later and we have a winner: Welsh parasnowsports athlete Menna Fitzpatrick, who scooped 40% of the vote, narrowly beating alpine skier Cara Brown.
Menna competes in the visually-impaired category, and along with her guide, Jennifer Kehoe, she became the first ever Brit to win the IPC (International Paralympic Committee) 2015-16 overall skiing World Cup Visually Impaired title at the World Cup Finals in Aspen, Colorado. Menna was also crowned Giant Slalom World Champion this year. Not bad for an 18-year-old.
“I’m over the moon to have been voted as Britain’s Best Up-and-Coming Skier. I’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone who took the time to vote and let them know that I really appreciate their support on my journey. It was a privilege just to be nominated amongst such high-achieving athletes and to win overall is amazing, and a great boost for parasnowsports” says Menna.
“Finally, I’d like to thank Fall-Line for giving me and my guide, Jen, the opportunity to increase awareness for parasnowsports and encourage more young people like myself to get involved.”