I have just got back from the most amazing trip away with Access Adventures to Colorado on a beginner’s ski holiday and I am buzzing with happiness.
Skiing is something I have always wanted to do since childhood but unfortunately my family were not interested in spending a holiday somewhere cold let alone doing something energetic!
I was diagnosed with POTS at the age of 23 an autonomic nervous system disorder which has resulted in me using a wheelchair for symptom control. If I stand, I faint and can have seizures due to not enough oxygen reaching my brain. The seizures have left me with bilateral leg weakness. I also struggle with temperature control and have bladder complications. Stress / anxiety make my symptoms worse, something which Access Adventures certainly help with!
I first found out about Access Adventures in 2016 when the charity was only 12 months old. I signed up for a kayaking/ hand cycling camp to get me outdoors again in the fresh air and it did so much more….
I have since taken part in many water-ski sessions/ weekends. Spending time outdoors with friends old and new laughing and having fun in a non-judging environment enables me to come away feeling relaxed, refreshed, and ready to fight life.
When I noticed the post from Access Adventures advertising their new beginners sit ski camp, I knew I had to apply straight away. I quickly went into the toilet at work to fill out the application form. It is difficult finding somewhere for 5 minutes of peace working as a nurse!
Once I got confirmation that I had a place I was so excited I couldn’t contain my smile. I felt nervous due to the uncertainty of the trip going ahead because of the pandemic and the prospect of the long-haul flight ahead of me. I didn’t need to worry; the trip went ahead as planned. Despite the flight being delayed five hours due to storm Eunice it was worth it once we arrived.
I can honestly say I had the best week of my life.
There were 7 participant wheelchair users including myself on the camp. 2 amazingly helpful parents and the incredible Clare, Jane and Mark from Access Adventures.
We spent the first night in Denver in a lovely hotel after a leisurely breakfast we made the 3-hour taxi journey to Steamboat Springs.
We then stayed at Steamboat in Colorado at the STARS ranch. The ranch is purpose built, fully accessible, beautiful accommodation. It has everything from shampoo to yoga. The only thing missing was a kettle!! – apparently that is America for you!!
Shortly after arriving at the ranch, it was time to go and get fitted for the sit-skis. We all loaded into the STARS bus which has a purpose-built wheelchair lift. We used this bus to get to the ski resort daily and the odd meal out. Clare made sure we got more refined at getting onto the bus as the week went on!
Day one of skiing.
The skiing lessons were all carried out by STARS. We travelled on the adapted bus to the ski resort. I found the ski resort to be like a beach resort if the sea/ sand was replaced with snow! However, it was magical, and the views were spectacular. Sue, a STARS volunteer, met me and was my instructor for the week. She had amazing patience at picking me up each time I fell.
I spent day 1 and 2 on the beginner’s magic carpet ski slope. I learnt how to get on the magic carpet independently, however, whether I would get to the top without toppling over was another matter!!! Coming down I had Sue holding on to the back of me keeping me far more upright than I would alone. On the second day I understood more how to turn when needed which is always a bonus!
I was no longer on the magic carpet I had my first experience of a proper ski lift, which picked me up and swept me to the mid-point. I have never been much of a fan of heights and never considered this in relation to going skiing!! By the end of the day, I was used to the ski lift but I found the other people on the slope rather scary due to their speed.
We ended the day with a lovely meal out in a local restaurant.
Day 4. Rest day - This allowed for a slight lie-in before heading into Steamboat town. This was rather challenging and tested all our wheelchair skills due to fresh snowfall. We headed to the ski resort for a pub lunch and then back to the ranch for some yoga lead by Clare which was greatly needed.
Day 5 - I found tough and progress incredibly slow. Jane had warned us all at the beginning how frustrating it can be. She was right, it was the most frustrating thing I have ever done!!!!!! I was terrified of running into another skier.
Day 6 - I gave myself a good talking too and got back on the ski slope!! I had a couple of less nervous runs and felt I was occasionally getting further without falling. Lunchtimes throughout the week were social affairs where we would sit together as a group with the STARS volunteers.
Day 7 - I had an amazing morning skiing. After lunch a few of us went on the roller-coaster ride with our Steamboat volunteers. From the ride you could see fantastic views of the mountain. It was a shame Sue from Stars was in front of me as she kept slowing the speed down!!!! Yes, I was the scaredy cat on the mountain but now she was the scaredy cat on the roller-coaster!!! At the end of the day, Jane and Clare taught us all how to go up an escalator in our wheelchairs. I have been wanting to be able to do this for so long.
Day 8 - Flight back to England. Achy and tired we left Jane and Mark at Denver airport. The champagne on boarding the return flight lifted our spirits of having to return home.
Honestly, I had the time of my life. I will certainly be skiing again.
I am determined to hit the ski slopes again; I know it won’t be like the Colorado champagne powder snow, but I am going to go to an indoor ski slope for lessons to build my confidence in preparation for my next skiing adventure.
Thank you so much to Access Adventures for making this trip of a lifetime possible. Not only have I been to America for the 1st time and began learning to ski, but it has also given me the confidence to go away independently.