Ski holidays are really bittersweet for me. I love being in the snow and mountains, the dramatic scenery and the crisp, cold air; but I still feel such a pang of loss not being able to ski anymore.
I was never a runner. So when I see people jog marathons, I of course feel envy at their strength and ability, but nothing more personal than that. Missing out on the freedom and adrenaline of skiing however, having skiied since childhood, really hurts. I accepted I couldn’t ski any more and tried adapted skiing, first, reluctantly in 2015, and again in 2017. I still felt tearful on my first lift up the slopes, but I’m so happy there’s a way for disabled people to get on to the snow.
Last week was spent in Schladming, Austria, one of the country’s most developed resorts for disabled skiing options. I was sit-skiing on two skis, which obviously makes it easier to balance. The most advanced option for disabled skiers in terms of speed and experience is to use a mono ski, when you are supported higher off the ground on one ski. You need a really strong core and upper body for it… it’s not in the pipeline for me!
I’ve been clear before, it’s not the same as skiing. Unless you’re really expert with your own equipment, you’re going to be with an instructor. This puts a limit on your freedom from the start as the sessions need to be pre-booked. I had strategically planned in two rest days, and one of them fell on the sunniest day of the holiday, following a night of snowfall: in short, I missed perfect ski conditions. You do however get the speed, and it’s also still exercise – I was breathless at the end of some runs. I wondered beforehand if I would still be able to do anything myself, given the deterioration in my right hand (just putting a ski glove on proved very difficult, sometimes a three man job), The first day saw any slight turn to the right descend into a collapse on the snow, as I just couldn’t hold myself up, but by the last day I was managing. It’s a very expensive and extravagant way to build core strength, but it definitely worked…
The whole week went too quickly. For those of us who are generally physically confined, having that change of scene and movement is so welcome. As with everything disability related, there’s an added expense. Skiing is by no means a cheap holiday anyway, but the necessity of specialised equipment and one-on-one instruction comes to €90 for a two hour session. So if you didn’t have fatigue and wanted to do several sessions a day, it would quickly add up. I think some grief will always surface for me on snow holidays (and on a darker note, considering how mild it was in what should be the coldest point of the season, maybe in a few decades we’ll all be grieving skiing), but that feeling is a common one in MS; it’s totally still worth going.