|[Title Image showing Abbie skiing arms stretched during her 1st lesson]|
When I first learned of Disability Snow Sports UK through my friend Emma's blog (aka SimplyEmma.co.uk - Top UK disabled travel blogger) I was stunned skiing was actually possible for somebody who was a wheelchair user whom had very little core and neck strength. So when I discovered that they also support people who are visually impaired, I knew this was a once in a lifetime opportunity for me and my eldest Abbie, that we could experience together as Mother and Daughter. Something that doesn't come easy given how drastically different our disabilities are.
We had this trip booked several months in advance. Abbie just couldn't contain herself the week leading upto our weekend in Scotland. I think everybody in her entire school knew where she was going that weekend! DSSUK arranged for both Abbie and I to have separate instructors for a 1hr session each. Louisa was experienced in the sit-ski I'd need to use as a wheelchair user and Kate specialised in teaching children and adults with all degrees of sight loss.
We headed up on the train from Bolton to Manchester Picadilly, then from there to Glasgow Central, Scotland where we'd booked with DSSUK in their Braehead, Glasgow 'Snow Factor' branch. However they do offer the exact same thing near the Trafford Centre in Manchester, but wanting an excuse to travel! We decided to stay in a Budget Hotel (read my review of the Ibis Budget Hotel, Glasgow here) because we'd already forked out for travel and two lessons, plus would need spending money for our meals and a bit of retail therapy for that entire weekend.
Our lessons were booked for 3:15pm on Sunday, 18th March which was convenient because it gave us time to go have lunch in the food court in the nearby Braehead Shopping Centre, which is full to capacity of every shop and anything you could ever need. I highly recommend checking out the shopping centre if you have time. We planned to start heading over to Intu Soar around 2:30pm as they say to allow 45 minutes before hand to get signed in and get geared up.
|[IMAGE: Front view of large building with floor to ceiling glass frontal exterior. Sign states 'Intu Braehead Soar']|
As we were on foot and unfamiliar with the area, we had a bit of an ordeal finding which entrance of the shopping centre to exit from where Intu Soar was supposedly just across the Blue car park over the road. So unfortunately we got a bit delayed with that but the guy that answered my call at Snow Factor was very helpful and instructed us that we needed to locate Primark and use the exist across from there. Once we managed that, it is literally following the path to the right around the shopping centre and you're facing Intu Soar. Actually and literally straight forward!
Once inside we had to zig zag up two lifts to get to Snow Factor as little did I realise, Intu Soar is like a big activity and entertainment centre. They had everything from curling rinks, snow boarding, indoor rock climbing to a cinema, popular restaurants and arcades. It was fantastic! If I'd of known that I'd of tried to squeeze in more activities BUT it at least gives us an excuse to return to that part of Glasgow...
|[IMAGE: A glimpse inside Intu Soar. Shows neon lit interior with escalators, ODEON IMAX and restaurants]|
Another thing to know is that the lift to get to where you get your clothing and gear is actually inside a dimly lit rustic restaurant that doubles as a viewing area. So you go down the lift and the DSSUK desk is opposite the regular information area. From there we spent a good 15 mins filling out some medical forms for each of us and met with Kate (who was just heading out on the snow for another lesson) giving us enough time to get changed and situated. She would meet us in the entry area to the snow with the sit-ski for me and Louisa who'd be my instructor.
If you want to read about my experience skiing as a wheelchair user, it'll be in an upcoming blog. It'd be way too long if I combined our experiences into one post!
We headed over to the clothing rental desk and told them we were doing lessons with DSSUK as Kate instructed us. To my surprise our clothing AND gear were actually covered FREE by them! I actually got a bit choked up because I just didn't expect that and it meant we had just that little bit more money to spend on other essentials on our trip. So very grateful!
There is an accessible changing room next to the regular cubicals. It kinda resembles a first aid room as it had a low bench to perch yourself on to change, a sink and toilet with grab rails. It was huge! Sadly it was part storage area for ski gear and I couldn't help thinking this room was perfect to be transformed into a proper Changing Places toilet. DSSUK did direct us to the nearest CP facility which is inside Braehead Shopping Centre if we needed it. The only issue that's appropriate to mention about this accessible changing room in Snow Factor is that the lighting is very dim and it's very cold in there. So someone with a Visual Impairment may need assistance navigating within, especially with the clothing rails. Abbie has night blindness as a symptom of her degenerative eye condition so we had to dress her in warp speed to her it was pitch black in there, so she found that frightening.
We then went over to where you get your ski equipment where we were greeted by a lovely Glaswegian young man who came right down to Abbie's level to ensure her boots and helmet were fitted correctly and not hurting her. She became all shy with him and kept nodding to every question! But he was incredibly patient and between us we determined they were all fit just fine. Abbie soon perked up when there was only 1 yellow helmet left in extra small, as she had her heart set on a purple one. Oh to be a 5 year old 😂 !
Now we were all suited and booted, we met with both Kate and Louisa who helped me into the sit-ski and got Abbie's skis on ready. Abbie could not get out there fast enough!
|[IMAGE: A clear view of the inside ski slopes in Snow Factor]|
The way they do it for people with sight loss is corner off an area near the bottom with only gradual inclines. So she literally had a 1/4 of the indoor snow area to herself with Kate. They started slow and let her practice walking her skis, then sliding and then going faster being guided around the waist or with her hands.
|[IMAGE: Abbie in neon yellow helmet wearing skis, navigating through tunnels on the snow]|
Abbie loved going through the obstacle course of tunnels, tyres and pathways to navigate which reminded me of a snow version of Sports Day at primary school.
|[IMAGE: Abbie mid fall, smiling]|
She did fall every few minutes but she never whined, cried or wanted off the snow. A smile never left her face and she'd just get back up and off she went again to the next part of the assault course. The lesson was not so much making her an expert skier but to let her have fun and given her age, a lot of things are learnt through play. Kate and Abbie would race each other through the tunnels which Abbie found hilarious.
|[IMAGE: Abbie getting her bearing skiing with arms outstretched following instructions]|
By the end of the hour, her cheeks were bright red, she was breathing heavy with exhilaration and adrenaline pumping. You could tell without words she had such a great time out on the slopes. So much so she didn't want to go.
We ended our skiing adventure with a much needed round of hot chocolates in one of the cafés and spent some time in the arcades before getting a taxi back to our hotel.
I want to take the opportunity to wholeheartedly Thank everyone at Snow Factor, Disability Snow Sports UK and their amazing instructors Louisa and Kate for making our day an incredible and truly memorable experience!
Disability Snow Sports UK
Accessible Skiing in Glasgow - SimplyEmma.co.uk (includes amazing video footage!)
Ibis Budget Hotel, Glasgow Review
This blog post is linked-up with the following blogger linkies; #BlogCrush #ThatFridayLinky #AccessLinky