A few years ago my family and I went on a ski trip to St Johann in Austria. In Dublin airport at the start of the trip, I was brought on board the plane by two guys from Dublin Airport's assistance service, OCS, and the equivalent in Austria helped me in Salzburg.
Getting on the bus in Salzburg Airport to the hotel was a bit of a nightmare. My parents asked for help lifting me onto the bus, but in the end they had to do it themselves. It would have been better to have organised a wheelchair accessible bus through a tour operator, but we did manage in the end.
The bus transfer took an hour, which wasn't bad because some resort transfers are much longer than this. When we arrived in the hotel, we were given a quick tour around the hotel to get our bearings. The access in the hotel was good. The only slight problem we had was that there were three steps down into the dining room.
The resort was really nice. There were a couple of shops so that we could bring home a bit of Austria. There were also a few good pubs in the area. One of them was like a night club even in the middle of the day. There was a band singing German translations of well-known songs. It was all a bit too loud for us and when we left we noticed a sign on the door saying 'Over 18s only'. At the time I was only 17, but I love breaking rules!
On our first morning Dad and I walked down to meet my instructor, Hannes Weiscopf. He was very nice and had perfect English. He showed me the sit-ski that I would be using. I sat in it so that I could get a sense of what it would feel like. He tilted me from side to side. I was so strapped in I felt like I was a prisoner, but I was very comfortable.
There are two types of sit-skis. There is a mono-ski and a bi-ski. The mono-ski is a sit-ski with one ski attached. To be able to ski to you use crutch-like sticks. The bi-ski is a sit-ski with two skis attached. The instructor pushes you. Depending on the amount of encouragement the instructor gives you, he/she might show you the start of how to ski on your own.
Before we left for the trip, my parents and I had made sure I had the right gear for at least -5 degrees. I had boots, thermals, a balaclava, gloves and a jacket. I got great advice from The Great Outdoors. I needed to keep warm because I was sitting down, and the gear worked perfectly because I never felt too cold or too warm.
Each night there were things to do. One of the nights, the instructors put on a show of skillful skiing for us. It was really cool. We also took part in a 'flash mob', a massive group of skiing people, where over a hundred of us danced and sang to the song “I've got a feeling” by the Black Eyed Peas. It was great fun. On the other nights there were discos and quizzes – although we couldn't join because they were in German.
I have been back there skiing since that trip. This time I was on the mono-ski. It was quite scary but I enjoyed it. I fell a few times each day but that was to be expected because it was my first time on a mono-ski. By the end of the week I felt like I was a pro because I didn't fall at all which was a big achievement for me. In my opinion it is a well worth sport to try out.
While I was skiing I saw people of all abilities skiing. There were blind people skiing, there were more physically disabled people skiing which really amazed me. Everything is possible.
I'm a disability awareness facilitator. For information about me and what I do, please go to my Disability Awareness Workshop.