Skiing in Switzerland

Last year I joined an adaptive ski trip in Colorado and this year I ended up in Switzerland with a couple of wheelie mates. The Jubilee Sailing Trust stretched their land legs to team up with The Ski Company for there first (hopefully) annual disability ski week.

Matt was our contact at the Ski Company and he arranged everything, this project was his baby.

Unfortunately due to the Beast from the East a lot of our group of 31 either had delayed or cancelled flights. Mike and I were flying together from London Gatwick, Dan from Southend and Will from Birmingham. Mike, Dan and I made it on the Saturday (a little delayed, but nothing major) but Will was stuck in England until the next flight on Monday.

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Mike and I ready for the flight

We got into Geneva around 6 but had to wait like an hour before our baggage showed up on the carousel. We had to wait for a few other flights so we could coach it to Crans Montana, but we were all ready to go around 10pm, which meant we got to our accomodation around 12.30/1am – luckily dinner was waiting!

There was some confusion on the board status – my invoice said I paid for half-board while others were under all inclusive (minus alcohol), but in the end all meals for everyone were provided, including a packed lunch for the slopes – thank god as well because apparently Switzerland thinks that people with dietary needs don’t go skiing!

Our accommodation was basic, shared rooms and bathrooms – I scored a room to myself, bonus! There was one accessible toilet and separate wet room, which made it quite difficult for the 7 chair users but then another accessible toilet was found on another floor which eased the congestion a bit.

All the bedrooms had balconies and amazing views as did the dining hall – it was great enjoying a breakfast watching the sun climb over the mountains.

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There was only a handful of us on the first ski day (Sunday) so getting everyone kitted out with the necessary equipment was a breeze, and they also had a team of helpers in the form of English school kids on work experience (imagine having work experience in Switzerland – I did mine at the local sports shop in the shopping centre back in Oz!).

Our adaptive skiing equipment came from Defisport and included sit skis, bi skis and two tandem skis (this was amazing, the driver is connected to the skis under the chair, eliminating the need for personal skis).

Along with my three mates, there was also a lady who was legally blind, a couple more with spinal injuries and cerebral palsy, two lads with autism and a bunch of buddies who were amazing helpers – and great translators as well.

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Will and pretty much most of the cohort rocked up Monday night – the ski company offered them to stay and extra day at the end of the trip to make up for lost time, which was a great gesture on their part (can’t control the weather!).
Our days consisted of getting up, breakfasting then hitting the slopes till about 4 or 5 and heading back for afternoon tea, dinner and nighttime activities.

Monday night we were lucky enough to try out curling! We had two teams of able bodies and Sarah, Mike, Dan and Isaac tried out wheelchair curling with coaching from one of the Crans Montana wheelchair curling team.

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With the arrival of everyone else, we had many helpers on and off the slopes, which helped the guys at Defisport a lot.

I joined in on some lessons with Scott and Joseph with our instructor Bob. Bob is one of the main coaches of the Scottish Special Olympics team based in Aberdeen and was a great teacher! I stuck around with the guys the rest of the week as I was too chicken shit nervous to leave the nursery slopes. I did manage it a few times though – the first day one of the drivers who is also a ski instructor took me up the button lift for a nice and easy blue run – unfortunately a race over the weekend had turned the sweet blue into a dangerous red and I went crashing down! I walked the steep bits but got back on my skis (eventually). Later on in the week I went up to the top of the blue (pictured above) with Bob, Mark and Mairi but that ended in failure as I once again found myself on my behind and too scared to ski the rest of the way. Bob wouldn’t let me walk it either so he pretty much dragged me down that hill – with him going backwards! His poor hips!

It took another couple of days to get me back on the button lift, but I went halfway up the blue with Joseph and Scott. The first two times we did the half run were great, but the third time I ended up falling down (again!) Lucky for me Bob wasn’t around, so I convinced Peter to let me walk a bit. I did get back on the skis to finish the run – the bit that I knew I could do without hurting myself! Then I took myself back to the baby slopes and stayed there for the rest of the week.

After skiing last year at Winter Park – which seemed perfect for skiers of all abilities – I felt that Crans Montana is more suited for people at a confident ski level. There seemed to be a huge jump from the nursery to the blue in skill level which I didn’t like, but then once my confidence takes a knock I’m pretty much screwed!

Thursday was also Dan’s birthday so pretty much the whole group went out for dinner and cheese fondue. Before we headed out, the amazing staff at La Moubra put on a spread of local cheese and meats and wines in celebration – yum!

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Friday was our last full day of skiing, which I made the most of by pottering around on the nursery slopes, taking photos of everyone and finally getting on the chair lift!

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view from the chair lift

Jill, Alan, Malcolm, Maggie and I indulged in a vin chaud before Malcolm and Maggie skied down the slopes and Jill, Alan and I made our way down via the chair lift.

Saturday had us up, breakfasted and ready to leave by 4.30am so we could make our flights back to England – where the Beast had cleared up.

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I’m glad to have been a part of the first ski trip run by two amazing companies, and hope to be back one day – hopefully by then they will stock cider behind the bar at La Moubra!

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