This winter I am so fortunate to have the role of managing Summit Ski School’s Disabled Ski Programme. It was set up by my ex-colleague and good friend Ash Morton, 3 years ago. He raised some charitable funding and bought our first pieces of equipment, and the programme has grown from there. Ash has moved onto pastures new and I am pleased to be able to step into his role and continue his good work.
Skiing has been a big part of my life for as long as I remember. I was lucky to be taken on annual family ski holidays as a child and enjoyed ski trips with friends as a young adult. Then, aged 22, I experienced a ski trip like no other, which inspired many aspects of the life I live now.
I travelled to a small ski resort in Italy called Passo Tonale, with a group called the “Uphill Skiers”. My role in this group was as a volunteer helper, supporting the instructors on the hill with ski lessons, and providing assistance, where required, to the skiers in the hotel at night. The skiers, instructors and other helpers made up our rowdy rabble of about 25 people. We bonded over mutual passions for skiing, karaoke, après ski and a distaste for the awful hotel food.
Each of the skiers on this trip accessed the lifts and pistes in this beautiful alpine resort in a slightly different way, because each of them had a disability. But their desire to seek adrenaline, breath fresh mountain air and hang out on the slopes with their pals was the same as everybody else in the resort. With the aids of specialist equipment, specific teaching approaches and a little extra patience, for these Uphill Skiers, the spotlight was switched onto their skiing ABILITY, not their disability.
That week in Passo Tonale with The Uphill Ski Club of Great Britain, now known as Disability Snowsports UK, I made some friends for life and some life changes. I now work as an Alpine and Adaptive Ski Instructor for 6 months of the year and an Occupational Therapist for the other half of the year. Both jobs involve supporting and enabling people to engage in activities that are purposeful, meaningful and fun!
Zermatt for disabled skiers:
The programme comprises of two things:
- A range of specialist equipment which enables people with a disability and a passion, or curiosity, for skiing to get out on to the snow and rip it up!
- A group of instructors, experienced and knowledgeable in Adaptive Skiing, but also patient, fun and keen to pass on their passion for skiing to those who join them on the slopes.
Skiing in Zermatt is a special experience – I don’t know anyone who hasn’t visited this place and not fallen in love with it. The resort is car free, with lots of pedestrian zones, and travel around the resort is supported by electric taxis and buses.
Travel to Zermatt:
The resort is situated almost equidistant between Geneva and Zurich airports. Both airports are serviced by train lines which take you directly into the resort, with one change at a station called Visp. The Swiss train system is called the SBB, and they provide a service for anyone wishing to request additional support when travelling. Alternatively, private taxi transfers can be used to travel to the resort.
When searching for suitable accommodation, the Zermatt Matterhorn website has a wealth of information and choice to suit your specific requirements, be that size, location, price or star rating. The website also advises on chalets, hotels and apartments which are wheelchair accessible. This year we will be developing a database of accommodation which we ourselves have checked out for disabled access and facilities so that we can personally recommend places which may be suitable for our clients.
Please get in touch if you have any questions
So, if you are interested in skiing with us at Summit, through our Disabled Ski Programme, or if you know someone who you think might love skiing, in one of the most stunning places on earth, please do not hesitate to get in touch for more information or a friendly chat.
Our dream is to encourage and enable as many people as possible to share our passion for skiing, focussing on ABILITY, not disability.
Love Sarah x