Instructor scoops special needs snow sport gong

Snowbility instructor Richard Fetherston with his Disability Snow Sports Coach of the Year award
Snowbility instructor Richard Fetherston with his Disability Snow Sports Coach of the Year award
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A snow sports instructor who was awarded for his work with special needs children and adults says he is here to ‘break down barriers’.

Richard Fetherston, 56, works at The Snow Centre in Hemel Hempstead and was crowned SnowSport England’s Disbability Sports Coach Of The Year at an awards ceremony in Manchester last month.

Richard, who has been an instructor for seven years, first set up Snowbility in 2011 after being approached by the mother of a young autistic man who wanted to get on the slopes.

Four years on Richard teaches an average of 170 students a month, each with different needs such as dyspraxia, autism, cerebral palsy, Down’s Syndrome, deafness and blindness.

The one-to-one lessons help with improving social interaction, self-confidence, concentration, motor skills, listening and motivation.

The former businessman said: “It’s not just about teaching them to ski, but about allowing them to express themselves.

“I have had autistic students come to me and just look at my boots, not able to communicate, but slowly their confidence builds.

“To see the smile on their face when they’re on the slopes makes it all worthwhile.

“Now they have conversations with me, the instructors, the centre staff and our regular customers.”

Richard, who lived in both Hemel Hempstead and Berkhamsted before moving to Aston Abbotts, says Snowbility’s main aim is to ‘break down the barriers’ and get those with special needs ‘on top of a mountain in the Alps’ because ‘that is some feeling’.

He hopes to work with all the county’s special needs schools in the future, saying: “If there are any special educational needs co-ordinators (SENCOs) out there who wanted to talk about lessons, then I’d be glad to hear from them.”

Visit www.snowbility.co.uk, call 07713 888199 or email richard@snowbility.co.uk to find out more.