The European skiing season might be over, but those looking for outdoor sliding action don't necessarily have to wait six months for it to start again. You can whizz down the slopes to your heart's content - they just won't have any snow on them. Grass skiing, a sport that involves strapping on caterpillar-tracked or wheeled skis to tackle turfed hills, can be done anywhere. All you need are skis, safety pads (grass is harder than snow when you fall) and an incline.
Jamie Fox tried grass skiing last year in Meribel, France. "I was there in the summer and there were some downhill skiers training on grass skis so I asked if I could have a go. It was really good fun. You have planks that have wheels in the middle of them and your feet are bound to them and you go off down the mountain. It's very similar to skiing, but it's on grass and you're on wheels rather than flat skis. Doing it somewhere like Meribel is beautiful because you have the snowcapped mountain ranges in the background but you're on the green grass, the sun is shining and you can wear lighter clothes than if you were skiing."
Although it's nowhere near as popular as skiing, if you go to a ski resort off season you'll find a handful of people doing it among the mountain bikers and hikers, and it's pretty popular with kids, Fox says. He can definitely see potential for grass skiing taking off in the UK: "We have so many hills after all, and it's a good way to practise Alpine skiing. It's a great way of keeping your ski legs in shape because there are very few exercises that work the same muscle groups as skiing - and doing something like this in the summer will mean you're not having six months off and trying to redevelop those muscles six months later."
Betony Garner of the Ski Club of Great Britain is not sure why the sport has yet to surface in the UK, particularly as it has taken off in many European countries and also China, Japan and Iran. "There was a grass skiing association here but it disbanded a few years ago. It was quite big here in the 1960s but it seems to have lost its attraction and people prefer to do things like roller skiing, which is like grass skiing but done on pavements. Maybe it's because there are now so many indoor ski slopes people can use, but like tobogganing, all you need to grass ski is a hill."
Carole Benton was lucky enough to pick up some grass skis for her children at a car boot sale (the rest of us might have to order them from France). Even better, they were able to try them out in their back garden in Hastings. "We have 200ft of garden that goes down the side of a hill. My kids quite enjoyed the fun but found the skis a bit uncomfortable and soon progressed to sitting on the skateboard and rocketing down to the bottom instead."
Monica Barten, 25, is a public relations consultant from Australia, who has been skiing since childhood. "I was brought up as a skier but in Sydney there's a big park where you can grass ski, which we tried too. It's very different from normal skiing as it's not as smooth. There are rocks and twigs you need to be careful of and the skis are very different - a bit like a tank with caterpillar tracks and very different bindings. It's not something I've done as an adult because I don't know where to - but I would definitely try it again."
Even though the UK has plenty of hills that would be perfect for grass skiing, Snowsport GB, the federation that looks after international snowsport athletes in the UK, doesn't have any British competitors registered. But there are competitions run by the International Ski Federation. Competitors from the Alpine countries usually dominate these contests, although the current champion is Jan Nemec from the Czech Republic.
Frank Baldwin, editor of Skier and Snowboarder magazine, which last covered the sport in September 1989, says he is surprised that grass skiing hasn't taken off in this country. "We have so many great potential areas for downhill grass skiing," he says. He does, however, think there is a chance it will gain in popularity: "Given all the attention being given to global warming, perhaps people will start to look towards grass skiing as an alternative to snow skiing".