Learning to ski is hard, and even harder if you're blind

January 2019 was the 42nd annual ski trip organised by Blind Veterans UK, but the first skiing experience ever for blind veteran and ex-Grenadier Guard Richard.

Richard, 52, who lost his sight in 2013 as a result of hereditary retinal dystrophy started receiving our support in the same year and is now a regional representative for our working age members group (WAM).

This year’s ski trip returned to Canazei in the Italian Dolomites.  Although there was no snow in the village when they arrived, by day two it was snowing every night and the skiers had the pleasure of skiing on fresh snow each morning.

Richard’s first day was tough – as he says,

"Just putting ski boots on and walking to the lift carrying skis is hard work"
Blind veteran Richard

Each vision-impaired skier was accompanied by their own sighted guide for the duration of their time on the slopes.  Richard’s guide for the week was Mick, himself an ex-serviceman, who also volunteers as a guide for blind veterans marching at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday.  Mick is one of our regular ski guides.

Richard has very little sight, able to see only a couple of feet ahead, so Mick was mostly guiding him by skiing behind or alongside him.  Both wear headsets so are able to communicate with one another.

The first week of skiing is always hard – falling down and getting up again, repeatedly is exhausting – and by mid-week Richard was wondering whether he would ever get the hang of it.  But, next morning, determined to get it right, he attacked the slopes again and it all began to fall into place.  A change from him falling all over the place.

The reward?  Progressing from the beginners’ slopes to the Belvedere Bowl and the more difficult slopes.

As well as skiing, the blind veterans of course enjoy the aprés ski on offer.  The last night is traditionally a fancy dress party with this year’s theme being costumes beginning with the letter “L”.

Richard said the week was a great experience, well organised and great fun, if at times painful.  He is already planning for next year’s ski trip with visits to Manchester’s indoor ski slope. 

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