Skiing holidays are an amazing experience for all the family, however some elderly relatives may feel that they are unable to venture up onto the slopes. One of our staff members, Emily recently had a visit from her elderly grandmother, who was able to experience the joys of skiing with a little help from ES adaptive.
At 90 years old my, almost completely blind, almost wheelchair bound, grandmother is not the most likely candidate to don skis for the first time. But that is exactly what she did in December 2016.
I was introduced to adaptive skiing in my first year working at European Snowsport and saw first-hand the opportunities it opens up. Not just for the disabled, but their families, and even proficient skiers recovering from injury who are still keen to be out on the snow.
My grandmother, despite having had difficulty walking for much of her adult life, has never been short of ambition or determination. She continued her London office job well into her 80s, wants to take a hot air balloon ride (we are still looking for a company that runs balloon rides for wheelchair users) and is determined she will one day do a bungee jump! I had no hesitation to treating her to an adaptive ski lesson for her birthday. The original plan was to arrange a taster session at an indoor snow centre in the UK – this would have been logistically simple. But that is not our style! Oh no, having not set foot on a plane for over 10 years, we booked my grandmother a flight to join me here in Verbier for a week at the start of December.
The weather was perfect – snow on the hill and not in resort so she could shuffle between wheelchair and car, and sunny so she could get a feel for the beautiful view here. After a few days of ‘relaxing’ it was time for the big moment! We had a dress rehearsal – making sure nanny could wear the three pairs of trousers and six tops she needed to keep her warm – and on the day of the lesson I had no reservations about handing her over to ES Adaptive instructor, Charlotte. She took care of everything! She met with us the day before the lesson to talk everything through. She selected the best sit ski for the job, including padding to support my grandmother’s bad leg and a blanket in case the 20 layers she was wearing weren’t enough!
We had a 3 hour lesson where Charlotte was in total control. My mother and I even had a quick run into Lac de Vaux ourselves while nanny, Charlotte and Will (our helper) went in for a coffee break. We arrived to nanny sitting back in her wheelchair which Charlotte had asked the lifties to send up from Ruinettes. Amazing service!
It’s fair to say the first run in the sit ski wasn’t my grandmother’s favourite experience. It felt “nothing like she’d imagined”. But after a coffee and chocolate re-fuelling she thoroughly enjoyed the second run from Attelas to Ruinettes and could be heard shouting “weeee weeeee” at every turn. Having been expertly lifted from wheelchair to sit ski and sit ski to wheelchair and in and out of the car, my grandmother was pleased to get home. Later that day she said “I don’t know what’s happened to my legs but these don’t feel like mine”!
Adaptive skiing enabled my grandmother to step into my world in the mountains. She might not have the strength to ski for herself, but she got to experience the majesty of being in the mountains, life on the snow, and could see why I love skiing so much. All the family were, and still are, immensely proud of her. Most of all, as a ski instructor, it was a pleasure to hand over control of everything to one of our ES Adaptive instructors, making a dream come true and not a moment of stress for any of us!