In January, when England was thawing out and after I’d been snowed into my uni room for a good week or two in the midst of November and December’s arctic weather, I was making tracks for Åre in Sweden in search of more snow to discover how it can be fun for people on wheels too!
This was my first trip abroad since I’ve been injured so I was very excited. When we arrived in Sweden and I was lifted from plane chair to my (thankfully all-in-one-piece) wheelchair I saw, through dazed eyes of a 3am start, lots of sparklingly white snow and felt the cold smack me in the face (a regular feeling that week, around -14 degrees being the norm). The day we arrived was gorgeous, blue skies and sunshine and on the coach I forced my eyes open to soak up Sweden as we drove through it – it’s a beautiful country.
We arrived at the hotel, ate some reindeer, had a sauna and got some much needed sleep so I was raring to go in hundreds of layers at 8am the next day.
Having only ever seen ski karts in photos I didn’t really know how they worked but it’s pretty simple – the seat is low and has handles that four skis attach to, to turn you push/pull the handles and push them both to slow down and plough. (This type of ski-kart are used only in Scandinavia, different karts are used in France and Switzerland). I liked how cosy you can get in them once you’re tucked in, pretty lucky really considering it got down to –18 degrees! Naturally, the first run I went down I found out how fast they could go – really very fast! They were great fun! A bit out of control to begin with, it didn’t take long to grasp how to keep the kart in control by not picking up tooooo much speed. However, I realised my arms, the left one in particular, got quite tired and I found that my strength would give way and I’d loose control. I’m quite glad Marika, my lovely Finnish ski instructor was there to slow me down when I sped up towards the edges of the slopes! I mainly pottered about on blue runs but tried some red runs, I was there solely to have a good time. I enjoyed the half-pipe and really liked the red run jumps! We had the opportunity to try getting a ski kart license but after repeatedly failing at the slalom on the blue slopes I wasn’t so bothered about it. I know everything I have to do to get one so maybe next year when I’m stronger I’ll go back and try for one.
We were on the slopes from 9:30am-3pm Monday to Friday. The slopes shut at 3 because it started to get dark, it was very strange to have such little daylight! We spent the afternoons drinking hot chocolate and warming up in the saunaworld and the evenings eating meat or fish (it was bound to be either) and drinking pear cider.
The last day was the highlight of the week for me. Everybody was shattered and moods were low because the week was nearly over but then the sun appeared and the low grey clouds that had been present all week and had given Sweden a sepia shade through my orange tinted goggles, lifted to show Sweden in the same way it had appeared to me the day we arrived. It was a perfect day. The fresh snow was crisp and shining, the snow-laden trees made the place feel like Narnia and the air glittered! It was quite magical. The slopes were relatively empty that morning and whizzing down the long runs, seeing the sun reflect off the clouds from above and taking in the view of the mountains made it a day I’m not going to forget. The whole week was brilliant; I had an amazing time, really enjoyed ski-karting and made some good friends. I hope to go back next year!
The course was organised by the same charity as the course I went on for sailing with the previous summer – The Back-Up Trust. They help people with spinal cord injuries discover what fun things there are still to do after an injury, improving peoples’ independence, confidence and motivation. One approach they take is getting people into the outdoors. They are a brilliant charity that have provided me with the opportunity to try new things and helped in my search for new exciting pastimes. Even if I don’t decide on one particular hobby just yet I’m enjoying the discovery process and meeting some inspiring people along the way.
On top of my search for a new hobby I began university in the middle of the chaotic madness of sorting my life out away from the sheltering atmosphere of institutions. It felt like I’d literally been home five minutes before I was packing to move back to Sheffield to start my English degree. Going from being mind numbingly bored in institutions to not having a moment to sit still (pun intended) has been a tiring but very welcoming change and I’m now settled into the flow of ‘normal’ life. I have been really enjoying going out on my off-roading chair – the Boma – through Endcliffe Park and in the Peaks and I am looking forward to ‘bomaing’ around the Midi-Pyrenees area of France this summer!