A first-timers guide to the snow for someone with a spinal cord injury

An Occupational Therapist (OT), who I’ve known for most of my life since having a spinal cord injury (SCI), was in contact with me with questions about the snow for a nine year old female client about my level (T2 paraplegic) who was going to the snow for the first time. I was more than happy to give advice and share my experiences especially as I was so nervous at first and didn’t want to do it.

Accessing Disabled sport facilities and equipment & having fun

Join Disabled Wintersport Australia (DWA). This will give access to equipment and volunteer Guides, and also discounts on lift tickets and private lessons. Equipment and Guides can be requested through the DWA website.

DWA Guides are great but aren’t always available so I’d recommend booking private lessons. Private lessons guarantees you can go on snow and have fun.

I smash it out and do many days but I recommend half daysto start because it is very tiring. I started off with half day morning lessons and found that was enough. This also leaves time in the afternoon to share the mornings stories. Weekdays are a lot quieter than weekends.

Communication is key. Let your instructors know how you are feeling at all times. Take breaks whenever you feel cold to warm up. Instructors and guides are great at giving encouragement and advice and also listening to goals and abilities.

A first timers guide to sit skiing explains more details on what it’s like to be in a sit ski and have fun on snow.

Clothing & staying warm

I wear many layers. Layers are easy to add more or take off depending on conditions. My many layers include underwear, singlet, thermals, long sleeve shirt, sport pants, many layers of socks (2-4 if varying thicknesses and lengths), cardigan, jumper and then ski pants, ski jacket, neck warmer, helmet, goggles, inner gloves and mittens. The struggled with cold hands the first time so recommend mittens and glove liners. I have never warn a beanie under my helmet but have one with me to wear during breaks.

It may also help to take wet clothes off when taking breaks to try to dry them and then put on before going out again.

Heated warmers are great for extra warmth too. These are available from some chemists and Daiso. I was first introduced to these in Japan.

Padding & pressure care

A sit ski is padded but no wheelchair type cushion. I don’t see why a Roho cushion couldn’t fit and be used. You’re packed in really tight and don’t move. They add blankets and cushions and stepped in with many straps. I just tell my instructor or guide if I’m uncomfortable or that I’m moving or not sitting straight and they adapt. We are good at adapting especially as I’m a small person using hired equipment. I’ve never had any pressure sore issues. I do check my skin each evening and take pain killers when needed.

Videos

Here’s some videos to show what it’s like and how I have enjoyed the snow. I love watching them myself!

Sit ski vs snowboarder was my first time at Thredbo on my Starlight Wish to enjoy the snow!. My instructor and I had a photographer join us for the morning. My instructor was on skis steering myself in the sit ski vs snowboarding photographer Alister Buckingham down Walk About. Who will win? It’s fun to go fast in a sit ski!

I am known for wearing a tutu or being with others in tutus. Keep your eye on the tutu shows Tom from DWA wearing the tutu for some laps of Friday Flag at Thredbo. It was a lot of fun to follow the tutu, be guided and tethered

Following the ski instructor was a big achievement for me to have fun following my instructor down Friday Flat, Thredbo.

On a DWA camp at Thredbo with DWA Guides Jane & Michael & Thredbo Instructor Matti PHOTO: Thomas Swain

I hope this helps!

This is an edited version of the correspondence between myself and an OT.

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