Last weekend I went skiing for the first time since I went on a school skiing trip in 1988. I never thought I’d be going skiing at the age of forty-three, especially since I’m a bit overweight and my balance isn’t great. But anyway, the reason I went was that it was a free deaf snowsports coaching event, organised by the NDCS (National Deaf Childrens Society) and an accessible deaf snowsports company called Snowbility http://snowbility.co.uk
We posted about it on social media and asked if anyone wanted to go along to it. I thought it looked like fun so I said that I wanted to go. Eloise took on the responsibility of organising it and she did a great job bringing together a group of us to go there and enjoying the day together.
I was really excited about it beforehand. I was a bit worried though, too, as I had visions of me losing my balance, falling over or crashing straight into the ski instructor. I wondered if I could remember how to ski and I worried about completely embarrassing myself in front of the group.
On the day I didn’t have anything to worry about. The event was held at the Snow Centre in Hemel Hempstead http://www.thesnowcentre.com, which has slopes made out of real snow, so it feels really natural. We were all divided into different groups, according to whether you were deaf or hearing, and wanted to be taught skiing or snowboarding.
When it was time to get ready and join my group, I went downstairs to the changing area and noticed lots of deaf children with their parents there. It seemed like a great sociable event for families and the volunteers and staff from the NDCS looked very organised as they were helping the various children and adult groups get ready for their coaching sessions. I had a chat to a couple of people from the NDCS and I was really impressed with their kind, helpful attitude with the children and their parents. I thought they worked incredibly hard that day. They were amazing.
Our ski instructor introduced himself to us. He is called Arran, and is a young deaf BSL user. He taught us in BSL and although I am not fluent in BSL, I found it quite easy because he was very visual and patient when he was showing us what to do. He is a really inspiring person because I found out that he learned to ski with a hearing ski instructor while he was on holiday with his parents in France when he was a child and he picked it up really quickly. He then followed his dream to train to become a fully qualified ski instructor at the Snow Centre in Hemel Hempstead, where he lives. He works for the company Snowbility, which provides accessible skiing and snowboarding coaching for deaf people and people with other disabilities at the Snow Centre. You can find out more about Arran’s story here in this short video clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eNyEBS4tRXE
As Arran showed us the basic techniques of side-stepping and snow-ploughing, I found that it all came back to me from all those years ago. After a bit of practice with the group, I decided to go off on my own and attempt to go up to the top of the slope on the ski lift. The first time I tried to ski back down, I fell right over and onto my backside. It hurt a bit, but I picked myself up and carried on. As I practised a bit more, my confidence improved and I started to really enjoy it with the instructor’s help and guidance.
He was really enthusiastic and encouraging, showing all us patiently how to ski and improve our techniques in such a visual, expressive way. Eloise had never skied before, but I watched her grow in confidence and really improve in the short coaching session we had there. She really seemed to be picking it up quickly and enjoying it, as did the others.
After the session, we went to the Snow Centre café and joined lots of other deaf families and adults having a meal and talking about their skiing and snowboarding sessions. We stayed there for a couple of hours chatting and enjoying each other’s company.
This was a really great event, which was well-organised and great fun for lots of deaf people. I found out from the Snow Centre that over one hundred people had registered for the free taster sessions that day, which is brilliant. It just shows that there are no limits to what you can do if you put your mind to it. Who knows? Maybe I shall be representing Team GB in the downhill event at the next Winter Olympics? Somehow I don’t think so!