Winter Park 2020

I like organising trips. And my friends and I like skiing (they are all better at it than me). So I organised a trip back out to Winter Park, this time for a group of 8 of us. I may have left it a bit late in the year to organise an overseas ski trip, however Caro and the team at The National Sports Centre for the Disabled in Winter Park, Colorado were AMAZING. We had five adaptive skiers and Caro was able to secure instructors and volunteers for us for a trip out in early March this year.

We flew out of Heathrow on the 9th March. Covid was a speck on our radar and we weren’t too worried about it at that stage although there was one or two people wearing masks on that flight.

Meet the Team:

Ben, Dan, Ciaran, Geoff and Isaac made up the wheels of our group, with Alysia, Ross and I making up the working leg contingent (Geoff is an honorary member too). Ben, Dan and I all met on our first Back Up Colorado ski course in 2017.

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Due to financials we had 3 different flight bookings – Dan, Ciaran, Geoff and me on one, Ross and Isaac on another and Ben and Alysia so we weren’t all seated together on the plane but close enough to help out if needed.

Arriving into Denver was pretty good, the assistance team was waiting for us and we had a smooth time through immigration. Unfortunately I never got the confirmation email through from the transfer company about where to meet the van but a quick phone call sorted that out (and to be honest after 3 trips out there I should have known where it was).

With the 8 of us, plus our luggage and Ben’s sit ski I wasn’t sure how big of a van we needed and the transfer company were pushing for us to get two 11 seater vans (double the price!) In the end we had a 14 seater and to be honest I reckon we could have done it with an 11 seater – all the luggage and wheelchairs fit in the back and Ben’s sit ski went in the outside storage area and we still had a few spare seats. NB: This is not an accessible van – be prepared to get manhandled. 

It’s a long flight across the pond so we had an early night as we needed to be up at the resort by 9 in the morning to get kitted out. 

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The way the trip was planned was 3 days skiing, break and 3 days more. For our free day Ben, Alysia and I decided to go snow mobiling. It was £130 with Grand Adventures each and we had a beautiful clear day for our jaunt up to the Continental Divide. 

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While we were busy enjoying the epic scenery, the boys were out exploring Downtown Winter Park.

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Everybody was right back into skiing the next day. On our third day Geoff had a new instructor that discovered he could walk a bit! This meant that Geoff got shafted off the sit ski and on to a ski bike! 

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At the end of the fourth day Caro told us that due to covid the NSCD were shutting immediately – however, because we were an international group we would still get our extra two days skiing! woo! 
BUT THEN! As we were enjoying a post ski beverage at the resort bar an email came through from Winter Park resort which said all skiing would not continue for the rest of the season – effective immediately. Unfortunately this overruled the NSCD so we did miss out on our last two days of skiing. Bright side is we did get a pro-rata refund. 

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Sunday and Monday had us kicking about the hotel, not doing a lot of anything really, just waiting for our direct flight back to the UK on the Tuesday.

Monday lunch we had organised to meet up with some friends from previous years when we were struck with more bad news. British Airways had cancelled our flight which meant me, Ross and Alysia spent a lot of our time on the phone trying to connect with customer service – remember we had three different bookings. I finally got through to someone who said all direct flights had been cancelled so we had the option of flying with American Airlines either through O’Hare or through Dallas Fort Worth. Our American friends at the table vetoed Chicago straight away – it would be too busy to actually be able to make the connection. As it was we were the last on the plane in DFW. I was able to change all 3 bookings on the one phone call thankfully. 

Now, I thought they made things bigger in Texas BUT THIS DOES NOT INCLUDE AIRLINE SEATS. 100% would not recommend flying with them at all if you’ve got a bit of junk in the trunk or are long legged. 

Although pretty much half the group had some kind of injury – Ben fell off the chair lift, Geoff and the ski bike had a few falling outs and Isaac managed to get himself a concussion – we did make it back to the UK in one piece – just in time for Lockdown! 

 

Isaac’s Bits

After 2 years of skiing on the mountains of Geneva, another year came around for me to ski again. This time it was conquering Winter Park in Colorado!

Hello my name is Isaac Harvey and I have a disability where I have no arms and short legs but I don’t let this disability stop me from doing things such as sit skiing. I was given the opportunity in 2018 to join The Ski Company in a skiing trip to Geneva which was aimed at people with disabilities to go on holiday with buddies who would assist them throughout the week. As soon as I heard about this I was quick to book it and I loved it so much that I ended up going again the year later. I was so excited when 2020 was approaching but was quickly disappointed when I found out that The Ski Company wasn’t going to be doing it again! So when I found out one of my friends was planning on doing a trip to Colorado, I jumped onto the opportunity as quick as possible.

It was my first time in 5 years to go back to America, it was my first independent ski trip with a group and it was my first time getting a chance to ski on another mountain. After a lot of plans and months went by it was time to set off and fly all the way to America.

It all started in Heathrow Airport where I got to meet all of the others that I would be travelling and spending the time with during the week. The majority of us were wheelchair users but everyone was nice and friendly. The first encounter was so good that I knew that was a sign that the week was going to be very good! An easy but very long, gruelling day of travelling we had landed in Denver where we were greeted by a man with a big van who loaded us, all of our wheelchairs and luggage. As soon as he put his foot on the gas to leave the airport, I had the realisation that the real journey had begun. Travelling down the American highways which went into the mountains was somewhat special, it also helped the driver was very talkative and told us about what we were driving past etc.

We had arrived tired from the long day and ended up pretty much falling asleep. The next day had come and it was time to ski. We were picked up early in the morning where we were driven to the Winter Park resort where we checked in with the National Sports Centre For The Disabled (NSCD) who we were going to be skiing with. These were the people who had all of the equipment and the professionals who would be controlling my skiing. I can say from the first day skiing to my last, everyone was super friendly and very supportive, they treated me and my needs to the highest and I felt very welcomed.

After a lot of rearranging and changing of cushions we were ready to take on the Winter Park slopes! We took the ski lift up to the top where we had the chance to talk to my fellow instructors about my life and speak to them about theirs. We had many jokes and laughs every time we got on to a sit ski, I even took part in chairlift karaoke which was an experience haha. Once we had got off the lift, it was time to ‘eat some powder’, (or something along those lines) a term that I learnt from one of the instructors. And that’s exactly what we did! We bombed down the mountains at very high speeds going from left to right. The cold snowy wind blew in my face as I enjoyed every single second of it. Once we got to the bottom we would just get back onto the ski lift and venture to another part of the mountain that we had not been before which gave each day a new variety. Every day we would ski for a couple of hours in the morning and then do it again in the afternoon with a different set of instructors each day.

On the first day of skiing I realised there was a lot of differences to when I previously skied. Firstly, all of the instructors in Geneva did not speak much English so was very difficult to communicate with them but everyone here spoke English so I was able to communicate with them much easier. The sit skis we’re not as comfortable compared to my previous times however we did make it work! And what really surprised me the most is when I skied in Geneva we were given a slot to ski either in the morning or in the afternoon. With the NSCD we had the same instructor for the full day so we were able to ski for as long as we wanted which was quite refreshing as when I was worn out from sitting in the ski for too long or a lot a fresh mountain air got to my lungs I was able to stop and carry on when I thought was reasonable.

I then had an unfortunate skiing accident which stopped me skiing for the last couple of days but overall it was an amazing experience getting to do it in a new place with new people and I thoroughly enjoyed it! Will I return back to Winter Park and do it again? Or will I conquer another mountain? I guess time will tell but for sure I will be back skiing again…

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Price Breakdown – per person (in GBP)

  flights Transfer sit ski transfer Accom NSCD ski hire lift pass Insurance ESTA total
wheelies 454.77 150 120 560 890     BYO BYO 2054.77
able bods 454.77 150   560   150 443 BYO BYO 1757.77

Ski hire and lift passes are included in the NSCD price for disabled people, Alysia and I were able to get a discounted Winter Park pass as we purchased them before December of the previous year. 

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