Back in August 2018 I agreed to take part in a disability ski holiday with the Jubilee Sailing Trust and The Ski Company to La Moubra, Crans Montana, Switzerland as one of the support buddies for the trip.
The Jubilee Sailing Trust is a registered charity who believe people of altered ability should have the same freedom to explore the world, their ability and their potential through adventure as able bodied people. Most adventures are sailing but once a year there is a disability ski holiday. Anybody can volunteer to take part on one of the Jubilee Sailing Trust trips as a buddy (helper). I opted for the ski holiday after becoming involved through The Ski Company having volunteered on a trip through them the previous year. It was whilst looking on The Ski Company website in the summer that I saw the disability skiing trip. As an NHS nurse and someone training as a ski instructor I felt I would make a good buddy and had applied. By the time I went on the trip I was in fact a qualified ski instructor having successfully achieved my British Association of Snowsports Instructors (BASI) Alpine Level 1 qualification.
A buddy is assigned to skiers with a disability who request it. I was assigned to a wheelchair user on her first ski holiday. The role involves helping transport the adaptive skier from the hotel to the ski slopes, assisting during any ski lesson the adaptive skier has (for example, transfer from the wheelchair to the sit ski or on and off lifts) and then helping transport them back to the hotel. Buddy assistance depends on the type of skier you are assigned to and what their needs are. Lessons are either morning or afternoon. Outside of lesson time you liaise with the adaptive skier as to whether they want to be in the hotel, look around the shops or enjoy the mountain, its restaurants and bars.
I feel proud and privileged to have been part of this as one of the support volunteer helpers. The trip has been filmed for a short television documentary.
Me and my koala bear even made it into the promo video !
For more information on disability skiing with the Jubilee Sailing Trust and The Ski Company go to their disability skiing web page.
Defisport provided adaptive ski instructors and two types of sit ski were used : piloted and single/individual.
In the piloted sit ski the adaptive skier does nothing at all, everything is done by the instructor. Two instructors were required for a piloted sit ski. One to pilot and the other to assist loading on and off lifts or up-righting the sit ski if it goes onto its side. They are very heavy and in the soft spring snow piloting the sit ski was a real physical challenge with the two instructors interchanging regularly on runs. On one occasion there wasn’t a second instructor available so I was asked to go as second instructor helping load and unload from the chairlift and keeping the sit ski upright when we were stopped. The piloted sit skis have no means of balancing themselves so you have to hold the handle bar at the back if you are stationary. Let go and the sit ski along with adaptive skier fallover!
In the single/individual sit ski the adaptive skier does some or all of the work. For those adaptive skiers doing some of the work rather than skiing independently an instructor to act as stabiliser is required. The instructor will help the adaptive skier on and off the ski lift and use the rear handle bar to help the adaptive skier turn or stay balanced. It’s hard work being the stabiliser and my wrists ached after a couple of runs.
It was whilst at work one day at my former job on the kidney dialysis unit at Birmingham Children’s Hospital that I heard a ski company (aptly named The Ski Company) were looking for a nurse who could ski to go on a school ski trip with a child from Manchester Children’s Hospital. I had immediately been interested and spent a week in March 2018 skiing in Crans Montana with St. Mary’s Catholic School, Leyland allocated to a pupil (Thomas). So as to support Thomas more I had joined him in his ski class helping out with the class and even led the ski class on occasion. Both Thomas and I had a fun week. For me, the week ticked all my boxes; snow, winter, skiing, children, teaching. I was hooked, returned home and decided to train as a ski instructor.
After the trip I kept in touch with the headmaster, Philip Mooney, and knew from him that St. Mary’s would be at La Moubra the same week as the Jubilee Sailing Trust. Chance for a bit of a school reunion. On this year’s school trip were two pupils and a teacher from the previous year. It was really nice seeing them again. Despite being with Jubilee Sailing Trust I did manage to do a little bit of skiing with them joining Philip and Jade (the other teacher from the previous year) on the ski run down from the Plaine Morte Glacier.
Vision Art Festival
Vision Art Festival is a one of a kind encounter with nature and art. Bored with looking at the concrete lift installations on the mountain Ecole Suisse De Ski (ESS) instructor Gregory Pages (assisted by friend, artist and fellow ESS instructor Vincent Edmond Louis Poitout) formed Vision Art Festival in 2015. Gregory is the son of art gallery owner Frank Pages; Vincent is a talented artist and photographer who has exhibited his work all over the world. Vision Art Festival has become an annual event, held in Crans Montana every August, in which artists from all over the world are invited to add their mark. Please do not call it graffiti; it is urban street art.
I have in fact skied with Vincent; he was the instructor for my ski class the previous year. Vincent, who is from Nimes in France, had been travelling in Australia for a year and taught himself English whilst there. In the summer he worked as a land surveyor. Or so he said. The internet is wonderful, you can find out all sorts of things. I would later find out that he wasn’t who he said he was and discover his real identity; that he is a talented artist and photographer who has exhibited his work all over the world as well as being deputy boss of Vision Art Festival. Not once did Vincent say anything about the art on the mountain or his work.
One of the things I have enjoyed whilst with the Jubilee Sailing Trust has been looking for the Vision Art Festival pieces whilst out skiing. Some have taken a bit of getting to due to their location. I even did an improvised ski tour in my alpine skis and then skied back off piste to find one of them. WHAT !! I hate off piste skiing and in a previous blog said there were three things on skis that I wouldn’t do (ski touring and off piste were two of them) as I just didn’t see the point of either. Ok … ski touring and off piste do enable you to get to places that would otherwise be out of reach. Perhaps (and I mean perhaps) it’s something I should learn to do. Other Vision Art Festival pieces were out of reach because the Aminona ski area was closed and I didn’t have time to find the ones located in the villages of Crans or Montana.
Disability Snowsports UK