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Top Scottish Honours for Master of Mountain Sport, Ian Sykes

Published: 10/02/2011

Today, Ian Sykes MBE, a true architect of Scottish skiing and mountain sport, becomes the fourth recipient of the Scottish Award for Excellence in Mountain Culture.

This prestigious annual award recognizes and celebrates the achievements and accomplishments of one inspiring individual and their outstanding contributions to Scotland's mountains, encompassing sport, theatre, art, photography, film and literature.

Although he was awarded an MBE in 1990 for services to sport and mountain rescue Ian Sykes, from Fort William in the Outdoor Capital of the UK, is still a relative unsung hero of skiing, mountaineering and mountain rescue in Scotland. In 1970 Sykes opened a 'wee climbing shop' in Fort William, Nevisport, which was for many years the hub of all outdoor activities in Lochaber. Over the next thirty years under Sykes' control this one shop grew to a national chain of thirteen shops with a turnover of more than twelve million pounds; a brand that took the Nevis name right across the UK. It was during this period that his passion for skiing saw him team up with friends to plan, build and open the Nevis Range ski centre on Aonach Mor, near Fort William. Arguably the most successful ski area in Scotland Nevis Range celebrated its 21st anniversary in 2010 and continues to be a major tourist destination and local employer in the Highlands and Islands. In recent years the Nevis Range has diversified into a year round mountain activity resort and is the host of national and international mountain bike and motorcycle trials events that have brought millions of pounds to the local and Scottish economies. Nevis Range and its top class mountain biking facilities and events has also been instrumental in Scotland achieving Global Superstar status from the International Mountain Bike Association (IMBA). Sykes was also a Mountain Rescue Team member for many years. Initially as a young man he was in the Mountain Rescue Section of the RAF when stationed at Kinloss. He was involved in numerous searches, from crashed planes to demanding civilian rescues. As a member of the Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team he was involved in many challenging incidents. The Team were awarded the Bronze medal from the Royal Humane Society for one particularly arduous rescue on Ben Nevis. Ian Sykes has also turned his hand to radio. In 1992 he started Nevis Radio, formerly known as SkiFM, a ski weather and information station, that is now a successful community radio station with thousands of listeners across Lochaber. He has been an outdoor adventure instructor, a sled dog driver for the British Antarctic Survey, a suspected terrorist in Uruguay and, for many years, a committed and passionate climber all over the world, opening up many summer and winter climbs in the UK and South America.Mike Pescod, Chairman of the Highland Mountain Culture Association, organisers of the Fort William Mountain Festival, said: ”Ian Sykes saw the potential of the Ben Nevis area and had the drive to make it accessible to everyone. In so doing he has enriched millions of people's lives by making it possible for them to enjoy and take part in mountain culture. His twelve years of hard work political lobbying, or 'warfare' as Ian likes to call it, that resulted in Nevis Range being set up have helped Lochaber and all of Scotland be recognised across the world as a top class adventure tourism destination for everyone.”

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