Snow-sports holidays for people with disabilities are booming

For those with a ski break booked anywhere in Europe in the coming weeks, the most vexing issue is likely to be whether or not any snow will have arrived on the slopes by the time you do. But for a significant number of British skiers, what determines the quality of their experience has little to do with the weather.

Skiers with disabilities tend only to make the news when competing in high-profile events, most notably the Paralympic Games every four years. But, for all the achievements of the athletes involved, such recognition represents merely the tip of the iceberg for a growing band of Britain's adaptive skiers, the term by which skiers with disabilities are known.

According to Disability Snowsports UK (DSUK), a charity and the leading training provider for adaptive skiers, the UK is home to around 2,000 active enthusiasts. The majority participate using ski-mounted chairs, known as "sit skis", and with the aid of "outriggers", short poles with small skis attached to the bottom.

Served by a rising number of dedicated instructors, DSUK claims bookings are at an all-time high, with specialist venues continuing to open around the country. The situation in Europe, however, is somewhat different. "Continental resorts are very poor in terms of provision," explains Gary Murray, DSUK's head of fundraising and development. "A lack of facilities means adaptive skiers will often have to pay for one-on-one instruction, which on a week-long holiday might add as much as £600 to the cost of their break." That is if you can find an adequate instructor.

"In France," says Mr Murray, "once an instructor has qualified through the French instructors' governing body (the Ecole du Ski Francais), they are, theoretically, qualified to teach adaptive skiers, irrespective of the disability. In Britain, all instructors must first be accredited by the British Association of Snowsports Instructors, then take an additional 10-day course. As no two skiers are the same, there's a lot to learn in terms of the medical background. A lot of resorts in Europe, for example, would not view somebody with cerebral palsy as being able to ski. That's a view we just don't share in the UK."

Despite Europe's poor track record there are, Mr Murray points out, exceptions. "La Plagne [in France] has built a reputation for accommodating skiers with spinal injuries," he says. "While Villars, in Switzerland, has a dedicated adaptive ski school."

By far the most popular choice for adaptive skiers, however, are American destinations where, by law, any resort built on government land is obliged to provide adaptive facilities equal to those for able-bodied skiers. America's lucrative adaptive sector has its origins in the Vietnam War, after which the US government began looking for activities for servicemen who had lost limbs.

For the long-term, DSUK has ambitious plans. "Ultimately," says Mr Murray, "it's our aim that wherever you live in the UK, you'll be able to access adaptive lessons within a two-hour drive of your home." With much remaining to be done on the Continent, it seems the message is slowly getting through, thanks to an increasing number of enlightened service providers.

"Our philosophy is to offer ski holidays to clients whatever their needs," says Nina Hasinski, owner of Redpoint Holidays, an operator based in Fugen, Switzerland. "If they are skiers with disabilities then we will merely meet those requirements."

The cost of kitting out an adaptive skier is high, says Ms Hasinski, (from £1,800 to £2,500 per person, according to DSUK) and that is difficult to pass on to customers. "We hire when we need to but also work on the basis of encouraging groups to come," adds Ms Hasinski.

Gary Murray concurs. "At DSUK, we always make the point that if you cater for one [adaptive skier], you can invariably rely on up to three able-bodied skiers coming with them and that means more business."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Guru Careers: International Project Coordinator / Account Coordinator

    Circa £26,500 DOE: Guru Careers: An International Project Coordinator / Accoun...

    Guru Careers: Plumber / Maintenance Operator

    £25k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Plumber / Mainten...

    Recruitment Genius: Travel Customer Service and Experience Manager

    £14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing travel comp...

    Recruitment Genius: Network Executive - Adrenalin Sports - OTE £21,000

    £19000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you looking for an exciting...

    Day In a Page

    Giants Club: After wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, Uganda’s giants flourish once again

    Uganda's giants are flourishing once again

    After the wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, elephant populations are finally recovering
    The London: After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

    After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

    Archaeologists will recover a crucial item from the wreck of the London which could help shed more light on what happened in the vessel's final seconds
    Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

    Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

    The invention involves turbojets and ramjets - a type of jet engine - and a rocket motor
    10 best sun creams for kids

    10 best sun creams for kids

    Protect delicate and sensitive skin with products specially formulated for little ones
    Tate Sensorium: New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art

    Tate Sensorium

    New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art
    Ashes 2015: Nice guy Steven Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

    Nice guy Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

    He was man-of-the-match in the third Test following his recall to the England side
    Ashes 2015: Remember Ashton Agar? The No 11 that nearly toppled England

    Remember Ashton Agar?

    The No 11 that nearly toppled England
    Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

    US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

    Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

    'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
    The male menopause and intimations of mortality

    Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

    So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
    Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

    'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

    Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
    Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

    Bettany Hughes interview

    The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
    Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

    Art of the state

    Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
    Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

    Vegetarian food gets a makeover

    Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks