Sit Skiing in Austria
I have always wanted to try sit skiing and because I happened to be in Austria in winter I thought why not.
My whole ski trip was organised purely by luck. Which just illustrates that when you travel, it’s so important to keep an open mind and open plans. A friend I met in Munich managed to get hold of an Austrian para skier who lent me a sit ski and another friend of a friend to be my instructor. My friend in Munich also sent me a box of ski clothes to use.
However if you don’t serendipitously run into someone that can organise gear hire, clothes and instructors below are a couple of links that you can use;
For sit ski lessons and instructors I found a couple of places; Firstly the Summit Ski school in Zermatt (Switzerland) http://www.summitskischool.com/ or PSO active which seem to be based in Austria. They also have pricing on their website as well http://www.freizeit-pso.com/en/winter/adaptive-accessible-ski-school.html. Ski 2 Freedom has some good information on accessible friendly resorts, where to hire equipment etc, the only problem is it doesn’t appear to be updated very regularly http://ski2freedom.com/en/mountain-sport-activities/adaptive-equipment#rental. This website has information about accessibility in regards to resorts in Tirol, Austria and it also has information on sit ski hire http://www.tyrol.com/things-to-do/barrier-free/monoski-areas.
The gear you will need includes;
- A good waterproof jacket and pants with plenty of thermal layers underneath (You will fall over ALOT so make sure your clothes are waterproof)
- gloves – As you fall over alot and are using your hands a lot of the time
- boots – because you are not putting your feet into ski’s you don’t need proper ski boots. However you do need waterproof boots and nice warm socks for your feet. My feet suffer from a lack of circulation so I ended up wearing multiple pairs of socks.
- helmet, glasses
I can’t remember the name of the hotel I stayed at but it wasn’t super accessible as there was a huge step to get into the hotel, but the staff were super friendly.
I ended up skiing for two days. Each day my instructor and his friend would pick me up in their car and take me up to the ski lift (because it was only the beginning of the season there was not a lot of snow so we were limited to certain slopes). We would then get in our mono skis, get on the ski lift to the top of the slope and ski down.
My instructor was a quadriplegic and a very talented sit skier. He also had an able bodied friend to help me which was definitely essential. His friend would pick me up every time I fell over (which was all the time), and would also ski behind me holding onto my ski for the first couple of runs until I got the hang of it.
Sit skiing is so much harder than it looks. Even getting into the ski is hard work. The monoski is a seat with a single ski underneath. You also have two poles. When the poles are up they work as ice picks to almost propel you through the flat ground. When you want to go down hill you unfold the poles and they become like two little skis which provide you with extra balance and also steering as you go down hill.
I fell over a lot and within the first hour I was cold, angry and frustrated. However I kept at it and with the extreme patients of my instructors at the end of day two I could do about 1/4 of the run without falling over, so a definite improvement. However I think my favourite part was finishing my two days with a celebratory schnapps in the warmth of an Alpine bar.
What I loved so much about short foray in sit siking was the warmth and kindness of the people. I was so overwhelmed by all the people who helped me just so I could try skiing for 2 short days. Most of these people were complete strangers. From the Austrian Paralympic sit skier who lent me his monoski and also picked me up from the train station and took me to my hotel, my extremely patient instructors, the staff at the ski slopes who were generally interested in my story and how I was going, and the young Austrian couple with a young child who I met on the last day and drove me all the way back to Salzburg. Also, not to forget Helen in Munich that organised the whole thing. It is stories and people like this that make travel so rewarding and humbling. Thanks guys!
If you have any links or further information about mono ski hire, instructors, accessible resorts etc please let me know so I can add it to the list.