Like the finest of wines, Dave ‘The Rocket’ Ryding only improves with age. Hailing from Bretherton, Lancashire, he’s a fan favourite among ski aficionados across the globe, but especially in the United Kingdom – his trajectory from the bunny slopes to competition podiums has been as unorthodox as Eddie the Eagle’s.

The first time Mr Ryding strapped himself into a pair of skis was relatively late for an Olympic alpine slalom racer, at six years of age.

That was on plastic, mind, at the dry slope at Pendle Ski Club in Lancashire. It wasn’t until he was eight that he first skied on snow, and thirteen that he attended a training camp on the white stuff.

After coming up through UK race clubs, he went professional in his late teens. At the age of 26, in 2013, he won the Europa Cup Slalom Series title. His career only accelerated from there. Since then, he’s won five podiums at the World Cup. At the age of 35, at Kitzbühel in 2022, he marked his name in the annals of history and became the first and only British athlete to achieve victory and win gold with a stunning first-place finish.

Over a Zoom call, we link up with the United Kingdom’s most accomplished ski racer as he trains to compete in the 2023/2024 World Cup Alpine season.

Dave Ryding of Great Britain competes during the Hahnenkamm Rennen in Kitzbuehel, Austria on January 26, 2020

Where are you at the moment?

I’m actually taking three days off in Holland. I’ve been training in Belgium in an indoor ski hall. And now I’m at my wife’s family’s in The Netherlands. It’s a great spot for a break. Not much travelling, which has been really nice.

Lancashire, where you grew up, isn’t known for its high peaks or fresh powder. Can you tell us a little bit about how your journey started off on the dry slopes at Pendle Ski Club?

Yeah, it all started because I wanted to join my family on a ski holiday. My parents said that if I wanted to come with them, I needed to be able to ski. So off I went to Pendle. After a year of dry slope lessons, I was deemed good enough to go away to the Alps. That’s where it all started. From there, I got into the race training and progressed.

Can you explain to us how you progress as a young ski racer in Britain?

So, once I’d completed the beginners, intermediate and advanced lessons, the Race Club just invited me to come up and try it out, see if I liked it, and then being a competitive kind of guy, I loved it. And so then every Tuesday night and Sunday morning, there was race training. And then throughout the summer, there’s a race circuit on dry slopes around the UK that I travelled to compete on.

Dave Ryding of Great Britain seen during the Hahnenkamm Race in Kitzbühel, Austria

Do you think training on plastic slopes benefited your development as a ski racer?

I mean, the biggest thing it offered me was the opportunity to learn how to ski, and obviously get into racing. I progressed on dry slopes, and I can transfer most of that technique to the snow. If you look at my World Cup wins and then going on to win the Europa Cup title in 2013, on any section that was a little flatter, I was able to generate a lot of speed. That’s what you learn from the dry slopes - generating speed. They only take about 12 seconds to get from top to bottom, so if you can get up to speed quickly, then you already have a big advantage. So yeah, my first World Cup points were in Levi, Finland and the first half of that piste is very flat. I remember thinking, “Right, I’m going to try and win the flat and then survive the steep.” I did that and placed in the top 30. So, certainly, training on plastic definitely helped with my progression as a racer.

What are the mechanics of that? What exactly do you do to generate that kind of speed on the flats?

It’s the way you work throughout the ski and how you push out of the gate to get up to speed as quickly as you can. The timing of the impulse into the ski is the main consideration in generating speed.

What’s the hairiest, scariest moment that sticks out from your career as a ski racer?

There’s a really scary dry slope that I remember up in Scotland that was ridiculously steep and bumpy. That was really scary! Obviously, racing my first World Cups were quite daunting, though racing slalom isn’t generally scary per se.

Is there a moment that stands out as being one of the proudest of your career?

I’ve got a few. Winning the Europa Cup title in 2013 at the time was huge because no Brit had ever won the title. It took me so long to break through on the Europa Cup that to win was massive for me. And then progressing on and winning my first World Cup and being the first Brit to do that was my biggest success. But my career as a whole is a proud thing, six podiums and a gold medal win feels pretty special.

Winning my first World Cup was my biggest success. But my career as a whole is a proud thing, six podiums and a gold medal win feels pretty special.

It definitely is. You’ve won more medals than any British skier. Are there any particularly odd moments that stick out?

So, I had just won a podium in Adelboden and some random guy commented on an Instagram post saying that I’m basically not a nice guy and that I’m the ‘Kim Jong Un of ski racing’. I think he got his wires crossed because his justification was that I was once at a dry slope training gates and we asked him to move over because he was taking up too much of the piste and I said, “No, do you know who I am? Blah, blah, blah.” But no one is skiing when I’m race training so that was definitely something that never happened. So, either there was an imposter saying that they were me or the whole things was always just rubbish - it just never happened. But yeah, you see all sorts of strange and funny stuff on social media!

Do you have any strategies for blocking out all of the chatter?

Oh, now that I’m older, I really don’t care, it’s quite easy. Obviously, when you’re younger, you care a bit more about what people are saying and so forth. And you don’t realise that some people are just negative and out to just be just negative no matter what. Then it’s a bit harder. But now I’m 36. I couldn’t really care less, especially if it’s not true. And I don’t go on social media that much, thankfully.

Dave Ryding at Kitzbühel

How is it balancing parenthood with performing at the level that you do?

Obviously, I miss my family when I’m away. But I cut back my summer skiing so I was at home more. I did eight days in June, but then didn’t ski again until September. And that allowed me to say like, right, when I go back skiing, it has to be fully committed, and I have to be all in. My wife is really understanding of my career. She was a skier as well, she gets it. Obviously, I wish my family were in Europe with me, or I could pop home like the Austrian racers to see them during the week. But it is what it is. And once I made the decision to ski race for at least this last season, I committed 100%. I obviously miss her as children grow up so quickly. But yeah, it is what it is. It’s part of the game…

Are you planning on teaching your daughter how to ski?

Undecided! We’ll definitely ski, but when it comes to the racing side, I’m not sure. I will definitely give my daughter a football to kick around. She seems to like to play with the ball already, which is a positive.

On that note, are you worried about the changing climate and skiing?

Yeah, the glacier melt that I’ve seen over the past twenty years in Obergurgl in Austria is horrendous.

Morbid question. Do you think that ski racing might have a future on dry slopes if we were in a world without snow?

I think it will go indoors. To be honest, I think more indoor ski centres would be built; a bit like they have been doing in Saudi Arabia. But I think it would go indoors before it goes to dry ski slopes. Which, cynically, would be great for me, because I’m quite good on the plastic!

A wintry scene in Austria


Dave Ryding breaks down the five mountains that made his career, and where he'd like to go next...


Obergurgl-Hochgurgl is my home away from home in the Alps. That’s where I do most of my training in the winter. So that has a big, big part to play in my career. I don’t think there are many other valleys that can offer what I need as an athlete.


I first started skiing in a little village in France (that’s probably a bit bigger now) called Samoëns. It’s near Flaine in the Grand Massif, not far from the Swiss border. So that was where I had my first skiing holiday with my family. I used to go there once a year, every year, until I was probably 14 or 15. So, that was where I had my first introduction to snow as such.


It’s probably pretty obvious why Kitzbühel makes it onto this list. I tend to ski really well there: one win now and two second-place finishes. So, three of my six podiums and my World Cup winner took place at Kitzbühel. The mountain has carved out quite a special place in my heart.

Pendle Hill

Where you grow up tends to shape who you are. I have a lot of positive feelings towards Pendle Hill, in Britain, where I learned how to ski. I guess that, yeah, if you’re being pedantic, it’s not so much a mountain. It’s definitely more of a hill. But it’s really nice as well. The view from there is awesome, so it was a nice place to learn to ski.


Where I’d want to go and ski more is in Canada. I haven’t really experienced the sort of freeski aspect that it offers. I went to the Olympics in Vancouver and Whistler was pretty awesome. So I may aim to head to Whistler to kick off my tour of North America, when I am less slalom-focused.