A FORMER Hampshire politician with business interests in Andover is the new president of a top international skiing club.

Michael Woodhall, who lives at Houghton near Stockbridge, has been elected president of the Down Hill Only Ski Club (DHO) – the second oldest in the world, and it is based at Wengen, in Switzerland.

Mr Woodhall said that he’s proud to become president of the club, which was founded in 1925.

“With over 1,600 members it has the benefit of owning a fine clubhouse open throughout the winter season and arranges walking tours in the summer,”

said the retired deputy leader and ex-chairman of Hampshire County Council.

Mr Woodhall has been travelling from Britain to the ski resort regularly for 45 years.

He added: “Skiing every day in Wengen, Grindelwald and Murren is a unique and spiritual experience second to none.

“The club is renowned for training young ski racers and training camps are held throughout the year.

“A proportion of British team members have started their skiing careers with the DHO,” added Mr Woodhall, who said that the Wengen slopes are home to the famous Lauberhorn World Cup downhill race held each January and skiers from around the globe compete.

He said: “I ski the course regularly at a fraction of the race speed which can exceed 100km per hour.”

Mr Woodhall said that viewers of the popular BBC TV Ski Sunday programme will not see UK skiers competing at international level on the small screen.

“There will be an absence of British skiers on our screens.

“Lack of funding means we are not able to train skiers to achieve the standard necessary to compete at international levels.

“It can cost over £150,000 per year to train and support a skier competing in the main world competitions,”

said Mr Woodhall.

Looking forward to next February’s Winter Olympics in Russia, Mr Woodhall added: “It is unlikely that the UK will be able to provide a strong team for the alpine skiing events.

“We are hopeful, however, that in the freestyle events such as, slope style snowboarding, short track speed skating, halfpipe, skeleton luge, bobsleigh and curling we may gain a place on the podium.”

He concluded that there will be ten alpine, nine freestyle and eight snowboarding medals up for grabs at February’s games in Sochi.

Britain has won 22 Olympic medals in the 21 years since Chamonix 1924 and the vast majority were achieved for figure skating, ice dancing, speed skating, curling and ice hockey