How we went skiing with our son and his wheelchair and how you can too.

I can’t believe that it has been nearly a year already since we took the plunge and brought Noah on a family ski holiday.

Skiing has been an annual holiday with Denis (the master builder) and his family with the last 17 years and other than missing the odd year since the kids arrived Denis has gone himself the majority of those.

So when Noah arrived and we soon realised that he was going to be a wheelchair user for life one of the things we began to wonder would it be a possibility for Noah to ever experience skiing and if so how hard would it be to bring him?

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One of the first things I did like almost everything in life was google.

And I will say for anyone thinking of it there is a great website called ski 2 freedom which is an ocean of information for advice on everything adventure related including skiing and other mountain sport activities. The site will give you great ideas and I have personally spoke to Catherine the founder of the site and she is so helpful for any questions you might have.You can find the link to their website here.

Now I will say our first trip was really a tester trip as such, one to see if we would find it too hard with Noah or if Noah would even like it himself.

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With that said here are our tips, tricks and general advice if you are thinking about going skiing with a wheelchair.

When to go – The ski season is typically from late November to April with the most popular months being December – February. We went early March and there are a couple of benefits to this if it is your first time, but bear in mind you are taking a slight risk that snow levels might not be optimal. However with Noah being in a wheelchair I didn’t want him to be absolutely freezing and for this reason March was the perfect option for us. The temperatures are a bit milder we didn’t need half the amount of clothes we brought and there wasn’t snow on the ground around the resort we were in so it was that bit easier to get around with Noah.

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How to choose where to stay – This is a hard one as there are loads of beautiful resorts to choose from but here are some of the things I would recommend considering when booking.

  • Double and triple check that the accommodation is accessible i.e that there are genuinely no steps getting in and out of not only your room but also the hotel/chalet in general. Our accommodation was 100% accessible but only because they had just renovated the hotel so please make sure before booking.
  • We went for all-inclusive and while it was lovely it did get repetitive and if I was going again I would just stick with B&B.
  • Make sure the resort you choose has the adaptive ski equipment or adaptive ski school.
  • I would look for a resort that had more activities other than skiing as we would only bring Noah on the mountain in the evenings. The resort we were staying in was quiet small and while the public transport was accessible and Noah and I were able to head off one of the days to a larger resort I would have preferred to either have accommodation with a swimming pool or a be in a resort that had a public pool/bowling/cinema etc so that we had other options of things to do with Noah.
  • Be prepared for some places to be inaccessible its just part and parcel of being built on the side of a mountain but we always found there was someone who would give you a hand and to be fair the majority of places were accessible.
  • For your first trip pick somewhere that doesn’t have a long transfer time from the airport. Austria as far as I’m aware is one of the shortest transfer times to the resorts.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask all the hard questions and if you are booking through a travel agent get them to check everything out for you.

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Skiing –  The fun part!

There are plenty of ways that wheelchair users can learn how to ski with adaptive ski schools in some resorts.

Here is a great website all about adaptive skiing (its Canada and USA based).

Adaptive Skiing

For us Noah was actually too small to use any of this equipment so what we did was hired out a toboggan some evenings and we would run him up and down the mountain (he loved it), on the last day then we hired out the skis and boots and Denis (don’t know how he did it) would ski with Noah in between his legs (Denis is an accomplished skier so he was as safe as houses) you can find the link to our ski video here on Facebook.

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What you can also do if you want to take a break from the skiing but still experience the views etc is take a trip on the gondolas (we were able to transfer Noah into the gondola so you will need to check if they have accessible gondolas).

On a final note what I would suggest is you relax and don’t expect too much the first time you go and you will be pleasantly surprised.

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What we have found since Noah arrived is its pointless worrying about what he wont be able to do when we go on trips but more so what other options are there if the initial one doesn’t work out.

We had an absolutely brilliant ski holiday and although Noah and I didn’t do a whole lot of skiing we got to see things we would never have normally seen on a ski holiday. We made friends with the locals and we relaxed and had loads of fun it really was a trip of a lifetime.

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There is one down side though and that is price. There are no two ways about it skiing is a very expensive holiday especially for a family as an e.g the price of a ski trip would probably get you two weeks in the sun.

So I would suggest have a good look at the different deals that you can get and make sure to always allow for equipment rental/ lift passes (these allow you access to the mountain to ski) and local taxes and charges (there is usually a cash/credit card deposit in most accommodations).

But aside from all that the most important thing is to pinch yourself when you get there because if you are anything like us, it was a trip we thought would never be possible.

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We hope to go skiing again in 2019 and it can’t come soon enough.

I’ve attached links below to some of the Travel Agents who specialise in ski holidays.

Topflight – You can get to their website here. 

Crystal Ski – They have a page on their website dedicated to ski holidays that are suitable for those with disabilities you can get there here.

Direct Ski – You can get to their website here.

These are the 3 main Irish companies but you can google to your heart’s content to find the best deal.

All our love

Our Wheely Big Journey

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