10.11
2011 Advice and tips

Working in partnership, the Ski 2 Freedom Foundation and French ski schools help make ski holidays a reality for children and adults with a disability or special need. Taking a child with a disability or special needs on a family ski holiday can be a difficult undertaking and may involve making an agonising decision – do we leave our child behind or stop going skiing?

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Working in partnership, the Ski 2 Freedom Foundation and French ski schools help make ski holidays a reality for children and adults with a disability or special need. Taking a child with a disability or special needs on a family ski holiday can be a difficult undertaking and may involve making an agonising decision – do we leave our child behind or stop going skiing?

For one family, whose youngest son is disabled, it was unthinkable to go back to Les Gets with the rest of the children and leave Hugo behind - family ski holidays would have come to an end. Happily, his parents met an ESF Les Gets ski instructor who dismissed the idea that Hugo could not learn to ski with his disability.

At the end of the holiday, Hugo said “People should believe that their children can do anything. My mum wasn’t sure if I would walk, but she believed in me and so did my dad - now I can ski! When I'm alone sometimes, I think I am unlucky but then I think 'at least I can ski', so maybe I am lucky..."

For people who have already experienced the exhilaration of the ski slopes but have since had to have one or more limbs removed as a result of a serious illness or accident, finding the confidence to go back on the slopes can be tough.

As Ski 2 Freedom is discovering, being equipped with information on the right ski instruction, equipment and resort to suit individual needs can go a long way to giving someone back their confidence.

Jack Eyers, 21, is a single leg amputee who discovered a totally new found freedom on the slopes of La Plagne last winter. With the help of Julien from Oxygene Ski School in La Plagne, he was skiing black runs on day five of his first ever week spent on snow!

As if that wasn't enough excitement, Jack also took to the skies with a parapente and managed to drive a skidoo. “I had an amazing time!" he said, adding "This holiday has been a massive achievement for me”. Now all Jack needs each winter is his set of outriggers and a single ski. (NB Anyone who happens to lose a ski, don’t throw the other away, they are needed!)

The opportunity to experience the Alps, with their sparkling white slopes and the magic that appears to emanate from their very heart, to feel the gentle caress of the snowflakes, to hear the laughter of children and teenagers is something that should be available to everyone.

School ski trips can be totally inclusive, as was discovered by a group of children with severe learning difficulties from Hazel Oak School in Solihull. They enjoyed a holiday of a lifetime on their first ski trip to Montgenèvre with the excellent support of the ESF.

One of the school Governors, Andrew Wilkins, wrote:”In my opinion we should try to make it possible for this trip to be a regular thing. I realise of course that lots of money has to be found and that we must avoid putting parents under undue pressure, but if it can possibly be done I think we should attempt this. The looks on the faces of all those youngsters said it all for me. It’s clear that everyone is bubbling over with enthusiasm.”

Amanda Jones, the Head Teacher, said “As in all schools, we work very hard to make a difference to our children’s lives both academically and socially. We try to equip them for the world ahead, offering structured challenges and support. We are very proud of these 12 students for their personal achievements and for paving the way for other students like them. We also hope it is the start of a long and happy relationship with Ski2Freedom.”

The Director of Ski 2 Freedom joined the school in Montgenèvre whilst assessing the resort and saw for herself the remarkable progress made by the pupils and the dedicated instruction that was given by the staff of the ESF Montgenèvre. The school is sending a group in 2011 and places have been highly sought after!

So how can you or someone you know benefit from the same experience? France probably has a greater concentration of ski schools, independent guides, instructors and organisations dedicated to handiski than anywhere else in Europe.

A range of specialist equipment and excellent teaching can be found in more than 130 ski schools that offer some kind of snow-sport or non-skiing activity for guests with disabilities and special needs, as well as many independent ski instructors. On-piste, off-piste, ski touring and much more – in fact any snow-sport or mountain activity undertaken by an able-bodied person is possible by a disabled person given the right equipment and instruction.

To help find the right ski school, instructor and/or equipment Ski 2 Freedom, an independent and international not-for-profit organization provides comprehensive information on snow-sport and mountain activities tailored to meet the specific requirements of people with a disability or special need so that they, their careers, medical supervisors, family or friends can have an independent choice of location and activity.

Once a ski school or resort is identified, the foundation is able to sign-post individuals and groups towards the organisations that will help bring together all the components required for someone to experience the ultimate joy of being in the mountains in winter.

For more information, contact Ski 2 Freedom
This article first appeared on FrenchEntrée.com

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