Co-editor Martyn Sibley recently attended a major conference on accessible travel in Catalonia. As part of the trip he had the opportunity to try accessible skiing for the first time!
It’s not so surprising to hear that Kasia and I visited Barcelona again last week. We do love a little trip there! What is less known, however, are the reasons why we went this time and what we got up to.
I was kindly invited by the Catalan Tourist Board to speak at their conference for the United Nations day for disabled people. They celebrated the day by hosting a panel discussion about accessible tourism.
As you can see I was up on stage with four other experts and our moderator. Around 130 people attended and participated in this great two hour discussion. We covered how to make services more accessible, acknowledged the growing demand for such services, and looked at how to market the existing services better. Plus much more!
Following the talk I was flattered to be approached by many people who loved Disability Horizons and were keen to get involved with Accomable. A few people invited us back to Spain next year for conferences in the Basque country, Madrid and Costa Brava. It’s a tough life! Then one person in particular approached me and blew the trip away!
Javier runs Barcelona Special Traveller. He knew from my talk that I loved adventure. Plus he had heard from Diego and Monika at the tourist board that I wished one day to ski. So along with the amazing adapted sports organisation ‘Play and Train‘, we were invited to Mount La Molina that Saturday.
Having landed late Tuesday evening, prepared for the conference with the panel on Wednesday, and spoke at the conference on the Thursday; I was pretty tired. Nonetheless Kasia and I visited the Barcelona science museum (Cosmo Caixa) on the Friday. We learnt about the past and future of earth. The planetarium was awesome too.
Then on the Saturday we were scooped up by our arranged taxi driver. The journey to La Molina took two hours. So I whacked on my audio book and tried not to think about how the hell I was going to ski. Despite always dreaming of it, I was naturally nervous.
Javier, Mariona and Sylvana greeted us with the stunning mountain in the background, showed us around their offices, completed the admin bit, and I was lifted into the sit-ski. It was surprisingly comfortable. I had head support, my legs were out in front of me (but not over stretched), and I was strapped in – tight. Helmet included.
My instructor Andy took me on the ‘conveyor belt’ for a couple of test skis down the practice slope. With the adrenaline pumping I felt good. So we went to the cable cart. From nowhere the chair was cranked up, and I was raised higher up. Still comfortable. It turned out this was to get me on the cable cart, but still in the sit ski. Amazing technology!
Next thing we’re whizzing up the mountain. You may remember I went to Ischgl in Austria in February? There I went in the cable cart in my wheelchair and it had windows/doors. Here I was on a ‘bench’ seat and swinging with the mountain air lapping into my cheeks. Simply beautiful.
Wow. Just wow! We flew down the mountain so fast. We slalomed left to right. At one point we jumped which hurt a little so we avoided future jumps (apparently their new chair will have suspension too). I felt so free being up a mountain. On the snow. Blue sky against the whiteness. Fresh air flowing in my nostrils. Deer wandering next to us.
So so so beautiful and memorable!
After a second go down the mountain, we enjoyed a delicious meal and then headed back to Barca. Thank you to everyone who made this dream come true. I’d recommend it to anybody who doubts if it’s possible to ski with a disability. The organisation have so much technology and expertise. I can’t wait to go back 🙂
Understandably we recovered on the Sunday. Finally on the Monday we cruised around on the 80% accessible metro (London is only 33% accessible). We ate by the harbour, walked along Barcelonetta beach, Kasia checked out a couple of shops, and we headed back to our second home at MIC Sant Jordi.
Back in the UK, and reminiscing on an amazing week, it gives me an opportunity to say – Happy Christmas to all of you lovely people! I hope you have a lovely festive period. Thank you for all of the constant support and feedback.
By Martyn Sibley
If you’re planning your next holiday in Miami, why not visit our new travel site, Accomable, to find accessible accommodation.