Tudur is a T4 paraplegic sit skier who started to learn to ski 7 years ago. It has been a long learning curve for him, from his week first trying skiing and feeling that he would never be able to ski to being in full control of his ski chair and mastering the thrill of skiing in the mountains with his friends.
Its been seven years now skiing and I still feel like I’m not really getting it. After watching the Paralympics and seeing just how skilful all the Olympians are, I felt a little overwhelmed and annoyed with myself as I've not even looked remotely competent on the slopes. For the last few years I had been just trying to get through a week of skiing without really understanding what I was supposed to be doing and honestly believing whether I should be on the slopes at all. I honestly thought I would never be able to ski with any control or competency due to my level of injury (T4 paraplegic). My friends have been very patient with me and always very helpful. Every year, with the help of Ed and Dan supporting me and giving me tips, I have learnt things like chairlift uptakes and releases with only a little help from one of them.
Got the car packed and ready to leave, everything but the sink packed as usual! Dan was driving this year with me and a mate Phil, a sit skier like me. Only his second try so still a novice on snow but if he can pick it up like his downhill biking then he will be kick-ass. Dan has a VW transporter that's been featured in other Tudeski adventures but this year only 3 of us in a van with leather back seats, big BONUS as someone can sleep nicely across the back seat i.e. me!!. A suitable vehicle is definitely recommended especially in Chamonix as you’re driving to the cable car or chair lifts, not out of your door skiing here. We did the Eurotunnel option this year, which is definitely the best option. The crossing went well, we stayed in an F1 hotel on the way.
The disabled toilet was separate to the main room but only just around the corner, plenty of room in the toilet and the shower was fine too. My room was fine but Phil did have an issue with his room; there was very little space for him to get in so it meant some silly wheelchair juggling.
Respect to Dan for all that driving. After a pleasantly fast trip I was finally meeting up with Ed in his new stomping ground, Chamonix. Ed had booked Phil and I two lessons with the Chamonix ESF for the first two days. This was a really good move not just for me but for Phil too. He was keen and eager to get straight up on the slopes ready for our first lesson. At last lets ski…
The ESF instructor was very good he quickly noted that I at least had some ability which made me feel a bit better. It did become a little more apparent to me that I was looking more poised and confidant than Phil. I could see the same tentative look in his eyes that I had when I started 7 years ago on the slopes. I began my lesson like usual, trying to fight my way down the piste and trying my best to look like I know what I’m doing. The ESF instructor was quick to point out what I needed to be doing but I chose to ignore him as usual and carry on making mistakes and clearly looking clueless! After our lesson my mates and I had a chat and they pointed out that I’m not listening to my instructor and I should pay attention. This did annoy me a bit but they were right so that hurt more. That's what mates are for, telling you like it is and that's what makes them cool. The time on the slopes flew by and we had to finally stop for the day. We checked into our hotel 'Excelsior'. Its a 2 star hotel and to be honest its cheap and cheerful, although there was one major problem. The lift was too small for my wheelchair and meant some silly hopping trick I invented to scrape my wheelchair in. The room was ok I guess apart from the shower head being out of reach and a small ramp is needed for the transition on the balcony outside. Also, a large shower seat with handles would be good because Phil and I had to shower in our own wheelchairs, which was a hassle.
Met up with ESF instructor at the bottom of the Brevent ski area. There’s there's a cable car lift and a double disabled toilet, you will need to ask the cable car lift guys to be able get access.
I just gesticulated the key sign at them and they understood. This is a nice way to start. The cable car takes you up to the top and its just around the corner when you exit that you will find your sit ski waiting, ha-ha one of your mates needs to carry it up but its not to much of a chore. The lift guys were always up on the situation when we got on the cable car. They are clearly marked with disabled signs and to be fair the lift guys slow it down and lift the seat so there's plenty of room.
Right today I thought I would try and listen and at least one or twice put in some proper effort. Wow! Really glad we had that tell it like it is chat. Don't know why but all of a sudden I found myself listening to the instructor. He was a little annoyed with me the other day but seemed a lot more pleased when I suddenly nailed a few nice carves. Even before he said well done I felt something different; I was looking further in the distance and was considering my terrain. Its pretty mad that suddenly I got it, honestly what a buzz..
What an amazing day, can't wait for tomorrow! Did notice Phil had one of those pain days that you’re likely to go through early doors, I do have 5ish years on him so I had some sympathy, I remember those days.
My birthday, get in.
It was really good, to be honest, to have a day off skiing to heal and adjust to the climate. In general I’ve noticed over the years it takes 4 days for me to get used to the altitude, but that's just me. We had planned to go up to the Aiguille du Midi, just by the side of Mont-Blanc. We went up in a cable car and a lift, we were all looking forward to the attraction where you step out into the void, you’re surrounded on all sides in a glass box hanging over a shear drop! Had some nice food at a cafe then a chilled night at Ed’s were his house mates kindly cooked. Nice day.
This was to be a full day, we made our way to back up to the slopes. Ed had pointed out to me on the lift a point to go off piste, I really wanted to get
a feel for the powder but to be honest I’ve never managed a decent run on powder. Ed told me relax and keep my sticks up but I panicked again, put my stick down in the snow and they dug in sending me face planting. I was totally fine, it is powder after all, Ed did have to dig me out as I was totally stuck and completely at his mercy.
Right back on the lift, this time I was confident about my exit back to the piste if it got scary. I put in a few nice easy turns and positioned myself and went for it.. OMG!
I could not believe it I kept my sticks up and put in a few good turns and then did a nice carve back onto the piste I was seriously buzzing, Ifelt so good a spotted another section and nailed that too. Ed was right keep the sticks up... It was mad that day at some point, at Phil was asking me tips on skiing I did have an attempt at showing him some skills but totally failed as I said do this and then skied off. I'm not an instructor, leave that to ESF.
We did a hotel change and stayed in the Hotel Alpina in the centre of Chamonix for one evening. The hotel facilities are really good its a 3 star and really has no issues.
Skiing was much the same, another great day skiing, it was pleasing to see Phil start looking better and putting in the odd good carve. I had had such a buzz over the last few days that I wanted to make it perfect with as little falls as possible but I did have the odd one but who cares. I had an another first that I would never thought possible, I did my first ever sit ski exit off a chairlift, mad to think one day who knows I might do a full chair lift all by myself, think that's a long way off. Ed normally has to give me a little push, but one step at a time.
Noooooo its home time. what can I say got in the van and had a nice sleep as Dan did a 10 hour drive home.
I would personally like to thanks Dan, Ed, Ski 2 Freedom and the Chamonix ESF for making it the best skiing holiday of my life!
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