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My first snow skiing experience

31 December, 2017

Life can be challenging at the best of times. But when it incorporates a high level spinal injury, an inability to feel or move from my neck down, add the shortcomings of being unable to breathe unassisted or maintain a consistent body temperature, well then  I’ve got my work cut out to fulfill my dream of snow skiing.

Falls Creek, is 1,400 metres above sea level and it’s my first time to the snow and what I have disconcertingly heard will be icy, cold air. I travel to the Slopes not really knowing what to expect. Driving in, outside my van’s window, people amble around in t-shirts and shorts. It can’t be too cold I gladly think.

Then like being hit with a sledge-hammer I experience incredible chest tightness! It is as if an enormous, invisible force is bearing down on me. I can’t work it out! Thankfully my chalet sits close by to ease my anxiety.  Night one sees my lungs constraining struggling to breath and with my oxygen levels plummeting, I try to sleep but its’ a scary dark! I am feeling distressed, I think this can’t get any worse!

Amazingly with a new dawn, a new world is re-born.

Bright sunshine, blue skies, no wind, a balmy 1 degree and snow everywhere! Seemingly, something magical has happened! Through my window shoveled snow towers metres above my head. Up high from afar, the entire mountain is a complete brilliant, ghostly white!

Anthony with his trusty
air-viva

Anthony hitting Wombat Run with the support of DWA's Falls Creek Resort Services Coordinator Peter Hull

Its peaks resemble majestic perfectly formed macaroons. With the sun’s ray’s reflecting off a blinding, white, glistening warmth - against a deep blue sky - it’s a surreal contrast! It’s Victoria’s best snow season in years! I am spellbound by the sight now and desperately pining for some slope action. And I can!

To make it all doable, and take advantage of the perfect conditions, I am assisted by Disabled WinterSport Australia (DWA).

An organization existing every winter to improve the snow experience of people with disabilities. They bring with them a futuristic contraption, known as a sit-ski, it is designed for people with Quadriplegia/Paraplegia. Made up of a bucket seat neatly affixing to a body contoured frame, skis attach underneath, while sturdy straps secure me.

Having such adaptive equipment and human resource support on hand is an awesome thing!

Now for the real adventure!

Wrangling my body into the novel sit-ski, I am positioned in its middle. At the helm, and pushing the apparatus with gusto from behind is Peter Hull. As DWA's Falls Creek Resort Services Coordinator, he has a heart as big as Phar Lap! But first I have to be comfortable.

Compensating for the thin air I earn extra air from my trusty air-viva. As a result of feeling strangulated from so many clothing layers - together with a sit-ski helmet that locks my head into a forward position. With all this paraphernalia any chance of easy breathing is snuffed out! But there’s no backing out...and I’m off! Sledding down Australia’s longest beginner green run, the 2.2km Wombat Run.

It’s a mixture of bumpy and smoothly-graded downhill and flat terrains, I feel the whole euphoric, and thrilling skiing experience. All of a sudden any uncomfortableness becomes a distant memory.

I hurtle down the Creek’s slopes at breakneck speed, dodging, weaving and leaving fellow skiers in my wake. On the flat it’s a gentle, serene, take-it-all-in kind of pace. Once on the chairlift, being seated high above the snow’s slopes, it’s a privilege and awe-inspiring. It turns the tables on disability and it sometimes feeling like I am incapacitated. I feel uplifted and exhilarated!

Anthony Bartl is an adventurer. He has scuba-dived on the Great Barrier Reef, driven to Uluru, flown in a microlight, and travelled to South Africa. He has played many wheelchair sports including bocce, hockey, volleyball, rugby, soccer, and lawn bowls. He has a bachelors in Media Studies and Graduate Diploma in Education. Anthony has a C1 complete spinal cord injury.

Tags: Blog, Travel & Leisure, Health & Wellbeing