I wrote this after my ski trip to La Molina in Spain and somehow forgot to post it correctly. Better late than never I suppose.
We had an early start last Thursday morning. The bus was to begin loading 14 patients, and 15 or so family members and helpers aboard at 7 am. A massive 52-seater bus glided into the Guttmann Institute car park. But it was no ordinary bus. It was fully wheelchair-adapted. The mid-section completely opens up and a lift slides out from the hold below. A wide open space is left free inside where wheelchairs can be secured for the journey. One by one we were carried up in to the bus on the lift. Once we were all secured in position the bus left the gates and we were on a trip that would open so many opportunities for everyone on board.
La Molina was the destination. La Molina is the oldest ski resorts in Spain and it is one of the few fully adapted resorts in Europe which accommodates disabled skiing. It offers different types of adaptive skis which cater for all different types of disabilities, they can be positioned on all chair lifts with assistance, and experienced instructors are at hand to teach you the techniques involved and keep you safe while learning.
I had been skiing and snowboarding for many years before my injury. Last April I went to Mayrhofen in Austria to a ski/music festival called Snowbombing with some friends. Seven days of non stop skiing and parties. It was incredible! I think skiing was an activity that I knew I was going to miss and when I found out that a trip to the Alps was being organised I jumped at the opportunity to give it a go at least.
When we arrived at La Molina I was lucky enough to go first. I was placed into my ski-car and some adjustments were made. Some of the basic turning and stopping manoeuvres were explained and then we were away up the moving carpet. Once we got to the top the instructor reined up to my ski-car so as to make the experience safe, probably a bit too safe for my liking, but I suppose it was reassuring to know he was there. We slid down the slope taking mostly uncontrolled turns before reaching the bottom! We continued on this twice more improving and gaining more control and confidence before venturing further into the expansive mountain range where more fun was had. The lesson lasted two hours, we covered more ground than I thought we would.
It was great to get back out on the snow, be back in an outdoor environment that I had grown to love, and see all the breathtaking views that the Pyrenees have to offer. I guess when you suffer a serious injury and the basic everyday tasks become a challenge, you begin to think that extreme activities like skiing are unmanageable. But it is definitely manageable with the right support.
It was really good for me to get out of the gym and hospital and take on a more enjoyable activity. I even found that I used muscles further down my body that I didn’t realise I had access to. This has since helped to support my body and improve my balance a little.
Throughout the lesson my instructor David told me about his involvement with disabled patients and getting them skiing. He explained to me that although I now have limitations, most sports can be adapted to facilitate my needs. It is possible, and I believe him.