When the first snowflake fell this year, it made me think about the amazing Amanda Lees (pictured right). To me, I see snow as something that makes it really difficult to get around in my wheelchair. To Amanda, snow is an opportunity to travel, meet with friends and hit the slopes! We asked her to write a guest blog telling us all about her ski adventures........and she didn't disappoint. Here it is......
"As I zoom down the mountain, making turn after turn, hearing the snow kicking up from my skis I can’t help but grin. Being born with Congenital Muscular Dystrophy skiing was far from what any doctor expected me to be able to do, but thanks to some awesome bits of kit and some very patient instructors that’s exactly what I was doing.
My condition is muscle wasting and affects every muscle in my body. It caused me to develop Scoliosis in my teens and more recently my lungs have begun to need a little extra help, so I use oxygen too. My weakened muscles mean I find walking difficult and rely on my crutches and wheelchair a lot.
Despite this I’ve never been exactly a wallflower, I’ve always pushed the boundaries of what was deemed possible. Over the years I’ve ridden horses in the Mohave desert, zip-lined down a ski jump in Norway, played in a pipe band for the Queen and trained with dolphins in Las Vegas.
However, skiing, that was something I never thought possible – how was I going to stand up on slippy bits of wood when standing on my feet was hard enough? I watched Ski Sunday religiously but never seen disabled skiers growing up.
Fast forward a few years and I start working for Comrie Croft, an eco-holiday destination. Outdoor adrenaline sports are in the blood of the employees and they were determined to get me involved. Next thing I know they’ve found Disability Snowsports UK (DSUK) and convinced my dad to get me a lesson!
That lesson was a bit of a blur, but very quickly I realised stand up skiing (or four track) wasn’t going to work. Bring on a sit ski!
There are many types of sit ski that cater for many types of disability. Pretty much as long as you can sit in a seat you can ski. Instructor help ranges from piloting, to tethers, to just teaching new skills. Many mono skiers become self-sufficient.
Due to my condition a bi-ski was recommended. This is a seat with two skis under it instead of one (mono ski), making it a bit more stable (in theory!). I use handheld riggers – a bit like crutches with wee skis on them to help with balance and turning. Most importantly my instructor is attached to the sit ski by tethers. They help with speed and turning if I get tired or get myself into trouble.
My preferred sit ski is a biunique by Enabling Tech. It’s nice and low to the snow, and I find it fairly easy to turn. Initiating turns is as easy as turning your head. The mechanism under the seat leans with you and tips the skis on to their edge. The further you lean the more the skis carve. As with most things there is a point of no return though, which I regularly find & end up lying on the snow!
Now four years on I’ve been on three ski holidays with DSUK to the lovely slopes in Europe enjoying every minute. The feeling of zooming past other skiers is amazing, total freedom from my chair. Our last trip was the first with my oxygen. Thanks to the amazing technology of an Inogen one portable concentrator we were able to strap it to my legs and carry on as normal.
Enabling Tech have a new bi-ski with suspension under the seat which my local indoor slope now has. I can’t wait to try once Covid is under control. No more ugh moments when bouncing over ruts!
As Theodore Roosevelt once said – “Believe you can and you’re halfway there.” Add a little tech and you can go anywhere!"
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