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."

The dress can be seen in different colours

Life and Style
Divers at Bouldnor Cliff underwater site in the Solent off the Isle of Wight, where the silt sample containing the einkorn DNA was found
Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Jose Mourinho on Sky Sports
footballEXCLUSIVE COLUMN Paul Scholes: It was not a leg-breaking tackle, as the Chelsea manager had claimed
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?
Independent Dating

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Cleaning Manager - York and Bradford

    £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The post holder is a key member of the V...

    Recruitment Genius: Vehicle Breakdown Recovery Drivers

    £18000 - £28800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Vehicle Breakdown Recovery Driv...

    Recruitment Genius: Processing Partner

    £15000 - £19200 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Processing Partner is require...

    Recruitment Genius: PPC Manager - SW London

    £34000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This specialist travel agent ba...

    Day In a Page

    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
    How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

    Time to play God

    Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
    MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

    MacGyver returns, but with a difference

    Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
    Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

    Tunnel renaissance

    Why cities are hiding roads underground
    'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

    Boys to men

    The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
    Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

    Crufts 2015

    Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
    10 best projectors

    How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

    Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
    Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

    Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

    Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
    Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

    Monaco: the making of Wenger

    Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

    Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

    Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

    This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
    'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

    Homage or plagiarism?

    'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
    Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower