Epilepsy is currently defined as a tendency to have recurrent seizures (sometimes called fits). A seizure is caused by a sudden burst of excess electrical activity in the brain, causing a temporary disruption in the normal message passing between brain cells. This disruption results in the brain’s messages becoming halted or mixed up.
The brain is responsible for all the functions of your body, so what you experience during a seizure will depend on where in your brain the epileptic activity begins and how widely and rapidly it spreads. For this reason, there are many different types of seizure and each person will experience epilepsy in a way that is unique to them.
(The above information is used courtesy of www.epilepsy.co.uk. For more information on different types of seizure, see their website)
Ski 2 Freedom has no personal experience of skiing with epilepsy, except feedback from clients who have a family dependent with a varying degree of epilepsy which may also be part of a further Syndrome or on-going medical condition, and therefore can only give advice based on this feedback and other online resources. We aim to provide information and promote resources only of the highest quality but cannot take any responsibility for how you use this information or any decisions you make. Any person with a condition such as epilepsy should consult their medical team before undertaking a potentially risky activity.
Ski 2 Freedom is aware of epileptic skiers enjoying the slopes. Often the main issue for a person with epilepsy is the worry that they will have a seizure when in a vulnerable situation, leaving them in danger and at risk of harm. Whilst it is true that this could potentially be true of many day to day scenarios, taking part in snow sports does entail putting oneself in slightly odd situations, such as sitting on a chairlift for example. Most of the advice out there seems to suggest that a sport such as skiing should not be undertaken before seizure control is achieved through medication. We, again, advise seeing your Medical practitioner to clarify this.
If this is a first-time winter holiday for a child we would strongly advise that a parent or responsible adult is with the person in question during the ski session at least until both family and ski instructor are happy that the child can be left in sole care whilst the ski session is in progress – many ski instructors have excellent knowledge and experience of clients with epilepsy and will ensure that everyone is comfortable with the situation – many have sole charge of a client who suffers from epilepsy whilst other family members are skiing so once everyone is happy it is time to hit the snow!
Many sensible precautions can be taken to try and make the experience as safe as possible. For example, as with any skier, wearing a well-fitting helmet is essential. If you are an adult skier not having a lesson, it is a good idea to ski with a buddy, preferably someone who knows you well and would know what to do in certain situations. It would probably be advisable to stick to more gentle slopes.
Many people with epilepsy will be on anti-epileptic medications. Another important reason to see your Medical practitioner before booking a trip will be to discuss your medications in detail as sometimes elements such as altitude; temperature etc. can affect things or how you might feel.
It is worthwhile when thinking about a resort to consider the local medical facilities just in case. Most resorts will obviously have a ski patrol and basic facilities in the resort but it is worth doing a bit of research to gain a better understanding of what is available. Your insurance company may be able to further advise you on the above.
If you wish to take lessons, your initial enquiry to the ski school should include as much background information as possible. If you have skied before, it can be incredibly useful to dig out old photographs or even video footage of you skiing previously to send to the ski school so that they can get a good idea of your level.
Discussing in detail your specific needs and condition(s) is VITAL to ensure both the ski school and you know what is going to happen and to ensure you are matched with the right ski instructor and/or equipment. This may include a discussion about other associated health and social needs such as asthma, communication and social awareness skills and any recent medical developments. This is especially important in the case of epilepsy as, as a condition it can vary hugely. It will be useful to discuss the type of seizures you have, your seizure history, your current medications etc.
Feel free to discuss any concerns you have with your ski school. For example, as mentioned previously, some people worry about being in certain situation such as on the chairlift. They may be able to advise you on a safe way of making the journey or offer you useful tips. It is much better to discuss these things first before being put in a situation that you may feel uncomfortable with.
In addition it goes without saying that the person taking the specialist ski instruction/sit-ski session has all YOUR contact details and where you are staying in the resort with them at all times plus any update information such as when the last seizure took place and any useful information relating to how the family or carer would normally deal with the situation if one was to occur.
Many of the ski schools have a good idea of what is required especially when it comes to equipment and clothing, in particular the ski boots. Do ensure that you ask the ski school if they can recommend a ski hire shop for such items.
In Europe, the US, Canada and worldwide there will be ski instructors with experience in teaching those with epilepsy therefore it is more than likely that whichever resort you choose there will be someone who will be able to help you. However, going somewhere where skiers with a similar condition have gone before, may well be a source of comfort and reassurance. We are delighted to be able to list below all of those schools, of which we have personal experience ( clicking on the link will take you to our Accessible Resort Guide for further information on the ski school and resort): If the resorts below do not yet feature on the Accessible Resort Guide please contact us directly.
ESF Belle Plagne
ESF La Rosiere
ESF Les Gets
Evolution 2 – Tignes
Evolution 2 – Val d’Isere
Oxygene La Plagne
ZigZag International Ski School – Samoens
Active Motion – available most Swiss ski resorts
Redpoint Adaptive Ski Programme – Zem am Zillar
Freizit – Schladming
Ski 4 All – Zell am See
If you would like information on other ski resorts please contact us.
We are delighted to be able to share information and feedback from families who ski and understand the problems associated with epilepsy on our Personal Stories page.
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