I recently visited Falls Creek for the first time with my parents and younger brother Michael. Falls Creek have their own disability access guide and below I have added my experiences.
Tutus and turns
In August 2016, with help from Disabled Wintersport Australia, Falls Creek staff and friends, I made my first trip to Falls Creek, Australia with my parents and snowboarding brother, Michael.
I was looking forward to skiing with Falls Creek Snowsports School instructor, Charlie Evans, having previously skied with him in January in Myoko, Japan. The goal was to continue to work on being tethered and improve my turns with the use of outriggers. We were easily spotted on the mountain wearing tutus. Michael chose pink, Charlie blue and I wore the white tutu.
On the first day we left the outriggers behind and Charlie took us on a tour riding the many different chairlifts to see the beautiful views of the lake, village and the mountains. The following three days were filled sit-skiing with tethers and outriggers, and my sit-skiing improved with each run.
Our trip coincided with my birthday. As a birthday present from my parents, we spent an evening snowmobiling and enjoying the views as the sun went down. Charlie had surprised me by cable tying some balloons to the front of the sit-ski. The day’s mission was to lean so far over the balloons would pop. We skied left and right, and right and left, but even the friction of the balloons on the snow would not pop the balloons. At the end of the day we popped the balloons in a similar way to a piñata using GoPro poles, our hands and feet.
We continued turning and by the last day were mastering the turns. We mixed up the left and right, and right and left turns by instead turning left, going straight, turning left again and then making a right turn, going straight, and turning right again…until we came to the chairlift at the bottom. Charlie wanted to tether me on the rider cross. We had previously ridden the rider cross but I was still scared at the thought of not making a turn and hitting the bright orange barriers. We strapped a GoPro to the front of the sit ski and began with the jumps. It was straight and easy to do. Following Charlie’s instructions, I was able to make each turn and made it right down to the chairlift without hitting any of the barriers. It was so much fun and I was happy to be able to do it! We continued to have one last run with tethers and outriggers before skiing back to The Country Club.
We had a lot of fun at Falls Creek.
Tutus and Turns was originally posted on the Disabled Wintersport Australia blog on 30th August 2016.
Getting to Falls & Parking
We travelled from Sydney in our family Toyota Kluger with a roof rack attached to make it easier for everything to fit. Our drive was around 7 hours making stops are various petrol stations and other roadside stops. Disability bathrooms can be difficult to find and are best found at large restaurants such as McDonalds. Yass McDonalds was our restaurant choice.
Dad parked our car at Falls in an overnight designated spot. This was fine because once at Falls we didn’t use our car.
Where to stay?
We stayed at the Falls Creek Country Club in a one bedroom apartment that slept four. There are stairs and a lift inside with tile and carpet flooring. We drove right up to the front door to unpack the car on arrival and repack the car before departing.
The balcony was great because the views were beautiful looking onto snowy mountains, slopes and even a heli-pad. At night you could see and hear snow plows grooming the snow.
The bathroom was easily accessible for me to wheel my manual wheelchair inside, turn around without hitting anything and shut the door. The sink was at an appropriate height and I could see myself in the mirrors above the sink. Unfortunately, the storage cupboard below the sink meant I couldn’t spit my toothpaste directly into the sink but had to use a cup instead. The shower was small, with a small seat placed into the shower for me to sit on and the sprout was attached to the wall. A shower cap is a must if you don’t want to wash your hair every time you shower.
Drying cupboard is located in the room allowing us to dry our on-snow gear. It worked really well. We discovered that it also warms up the whole apartment so shouldn’t be left on for long lengths of time.
The bedroom was split to have two beds, bedside tables and a wardrobe. Mum and I changed the configuration of the beds so that each bed was against a wall to give extra room for my wheelchair to fit beside the beds. There was enough room for our bags to be open and out of the way.
The kitchen and living space was well equiped with cooking facilities, lounge, bed with trundle underneath, square table with four chairs and a tv. It was a nice little space to enjoy downtime.
The restaurant serves delicious food and drinks that you can eat at the restaurant or order and collect to enjoy in your room. It’s a good option especially after a long day out on the snow.
How to get around?
Most of the village is covered in snow and this can make things tricky to get around in a wheelchair. We received help in getting around in on-snow vehicles and other Falls road vehicles. Unfortunately the vehicles are not wheelchair friendly so be prepared to either be lifted by family/friends/careers or be able to step up into these vehicles.
Each morning it was arranged so that Falls Creek would pick us up in a vehicle from outside our accommodation and take us to the main chair lift where I was greeted by Charlie for my private lessons. This was a short ride on the road.
We also utilised the on-snow vehicles to get to the village bowl and dinner. These vehicles are quite high off the ground and have about 4 large steps. I was carried by my little brother and held on tightly!
We also had wheel blades (mini skis) for the front of my wheelchair. This made it a lot safer and easier for me to be pushed on the snow.
What to do?
My favourite activity and passion is to sit ski. Disabled Wintersport Australia offer help in finding the best on snow activity and equipment needed to people with a range of disabilities to enjoy the snow. The runs are progressive giving the opportunity for everyone to ski to their ability. I enjoyed the beautiful views when sitting on the chairlift and before skiing down the slopes. The runs are wide allowing plenty of room to turn even when it’s busy and the lift lines aren’t too long either.
I tried snowmobiling with my family. The staff are helpful in making it possible. You must have a drivers licence to be able to drive. I use hand controls in my vehicle but can also drive a snow mobile because the break is controlled with the left hand and the accelerator by the right hand. We had a practice, and I could drive it, but I chose to be passenger. I sat on the back and held the side handles. It can be tricky with balance, keeping your feet on the footplate and keeping warm but is a lot of fun! I would recommend giving it a go!
Adaptive Snowsports Lessons
Falls Creek Snowsports School has highly trained adaptive Snowsports instructors. Disabled Wintersport Australia (DWA) members receive a 50% concession on the cost of private lessons. Private lessons are a great way to learn, develop and guarantee you can go out sit skiing when DWA guides aren’t available.
I booked private lessons with Charlie who I had skied with previously in Japan. Arrangements were made with transport, DWA, Charlie and myself. My parents took care of my wheelchair when I was in the sit ski and met us again for lunch and at the end of the day back at Falls Creek Country Club.
Where to eat?
There are many wheelchair friendly and delicious restaurants to try. We were lucky to get recommendations on where was best for wheelchair access, price and quality.
- Last Hoot was our choice for dinner on the first and last day. We were able to easily ski in and out and it wasn’t far for on snow for my parents to take my wheelchair. We enjoyed refuelling on the great pizzas.
- Falls Creek Country Club restaurant was conveniently located where we were staying. We enjoyed both eating dinner in the restaurant and in our room on the first two nights of our stay.
- Elk Restaurant was our delicious lunch on the second day skiing in and out to enjoy spicy chicken in a friendly atmosphere with a wood fire.
- be foodstore in the village bowl was lunch for my birthday with a beautiful snowy view and great access back to the chairlifts. The burgers were delicious.
- Winterhaven was the beautiful dinner we had on our last night with friends. Best accessed by on-snow vehicle or carefully walking on the snow
- Bazaar was the venue to celebrate my birthday. It was easy to get to by walking from our accommodation along the road/footpath, taking a lift up from the supermarket and then walking to Bazaar. It is expensive but worth it. The buffet style dinner and dessert options provide variety and you will want to try it all! The dumplings were my favourite.
What to wear?
The snow is obviously cold but you can warm up on sunny days and depending how much activity you are doing. I layer my clothing and adjust my layers depending on the weather and how I’m feeling.
- Basics – underwear, gym pants, long sleeve shirts.
- Socks & Boots – long socks, wool socks, stockings
- Thermals – tops and pants
- Helmet – important for protection and warmth
- Mittens – warm and comfortable for my small hands. It can be tricky to do things in mittens so I put my mittens on last and just before I go out in the snow. I also have a pair of thermal gloves to wear under my mittens on the really cold days.
- Ski jacket – My jacket is purple. It keeps me warm, has plenty of pockets, is warm and comfortable.
- Ski pants – My ski pants are black and comfortable. It keeps me warm and dry.
- Warmers – You can purchase instant warmers that stick in-between the layers for extra warmth. I use these when I am really cold.
- Goggles – to see where I am going.
- Neck warmer – my neck warmer can be pulled over my chin when it gets cold
- Sunscreen – the snow is reflective especially on a sunny day.
I would highly recommend visiting Falls Creek! I had an amazing first experience and wish to go back. I would love to answer any questions you may have.