A CROSS country skier has found a novel way of keeping up her training while she is hundreds of miles from the nearest snow.

Stephanie Cook has taken to roller-skis for her summer break at home in Skeeby, near Richmond.

The 19-year-old is half way through a two-year International Baccalaureate diploma course at a college in Finland, where she trains with the Finnish national cross country ski team.

Although she tried the sport for the first time only three years ago, Miss Cook hopes to be selected to the Great Britain team this winter.

Until she returns to Finland in August, she is training for 22 hours a week, with three or four roller-skiing sessions interspersed with running, cycling, walking and gym workouts. Her roller-skiing takes her round the villages of North Richmondshire, which offer relatively quiet country lanes.

A foreign holiday sparked her interest in the Olympic sport. "When I was 16 we went on holiday to New Zealand and my mum asked if I wanted to go to a snow farm and try cross country skiing," said Miss Cook.

"I was really into running at that point and I just loved the skiing from the moment I put on the skis.

"Some of the Olympic teams were at the snow farm and I was so inspired by them. I kept a diary and in it I wrote 'I want to be like them.'"

Cross country skiing has two techniques - classic and skate - and Miss Cook particularly favours the skate style. "It just feels so natural; I love the motion of it and I took quite naturally to it," she said.

Her first formal ski training season began when she arrived in Finland a year ago and met students from the Finnish section of the college. Although she is unable to compete with the Finnish team, because she is English, she has received training from their junior national coach.

"I have met some members of the Great Britain cross country skiing team and I hope that, this winter, I will get on the team," she said.