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?
Arts and Entertainment
Buttoned up: Ryan Reynolds with Helen Mirren in ‘Woman in Gold’
filmFor every box-office smash in his Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. Now he says it's time for a reboot
News
people
News
Actress Julianne Moore wins the Best Actress in a Leading Role Award for 'Still Alice' during the 87th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood, California
people
Sport
Ross Barkley
footballPaul Scholes says it's time for the Everton playmaker to step up and seize the England No 10 shirt
News
'We will fix it': mice in the 1970s children’s programme Bagpuss
science
Life and Style
2 Karl Lagerfeld and Choupette
fashion
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
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Car Sales Executive - OTE £36,000

    £12500 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This established Wakefield Deal...

    Guru Careers: .NET Developers / Software Developers

    Competitive (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: our .NET Developers / Software Dev...

    Sheridan Maine: Accounts Assistant

    £25,000 - £30,000: Sheridan Maine: Are you looking for a fantastic opportunity...

    Ashdown Group: Management Accountant - Manchester

    £25000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Management Accountant - Manchester...

    Day In a Page

    War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

    War with Isis

    Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
    Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

    A spring in your step?

    Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
    Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

    Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

    Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
    Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

    Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

    For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
    Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

    Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

    As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
    The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

    UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

    Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
    Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

    Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

    Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
    Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

    Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

    If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
    10 best compact cameras

    A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

    If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
    Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

    Paul Scholes column

    Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
    Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

    Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

    Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
    Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

    Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

    The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
    General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

    The masterminds behind the election

    How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
    Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

    Machine Gun America

    The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
    The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

    The ethics of pet food

    Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?