Writing on Snow

This week, I’m going to turn my previous post on its head. There have been times in my writing career when offering my services pro bono has reaped rewards. There are also times when the cause is worthy enough for me to offer my services for free. Recently, I used my writing capabilities for the benefit of a rather special skiing trip I go on. I created an article which the trip organisers can use to ensure the continued success of our trip. It was the least I could do, since their generosity to me and the others on the trip is beyond price.

Here’s the fruits of my labour

Every year, an army of green-vested skiers come to the Bavarian Alps for skiing and merriment. On their vests, there is a drawing of an eye, with the words Blind Skier printed above it.

The skiers are accompanied by guides who wear matching green vests. The skiers and guides came together over 20 years ago, when British soldiers who were serving in Northern Ireland decided they wanted to create greater links of friendship between the communities there.

Over the years, the trip has become a gathering of friends, some of whom can see a little better than others. The skiers come from Northern and Southern Ireland. Some are totally blind, while others have a good level of sight. Many of them are experienced skiers, but the group welcomes new faces each year.

This year’s trip began on Saturday, February 27th and lasted until Saturday March 6th. The skiers and guides stayed at the Hotel Hirsch in Immenstadt. in the Allgäu region in Bavaria.

When the skiers arrived, they were kitted up with skis and boots supplied free of charge by the team at the British Army’s Alpine Training Centre. The skiers also receive free lift passes from the centre.

Every day, the skiers hit the slopes of Oberjoch, Söllereck and Kanzelwand. There is a half-hour transfer from the town of Immenstadt, so the guides drove the skiers there in vans donated by the local branch of Europcar.

While they were on the slopes, the skiers were guided in a number of ways. Some followed the green vests, some followed instructions to turn left and right and others listened out for the swish of their guides’ skis. One even skied to the sound of heavy metal!

Halfway through the week, the skiers and guides were joined by pupils from the Realschule in Sonthofen, who tried their hand at guiding for the day. For the pupils, it was a chance not only to practise their English, but also to learn that blind people can ski down the mountain just as well as they can, with the right guidance

During the trip, the group also tried out night skiing.  They enjoyed the novelty of skiing under floodlights. Some of them found it easier to see the slope than they would during the day. Even the totally blind skiers were able to savour the difference in atmosphere.

There was plenty of fun off the slopes too. The group sampled local cuisine in the restaurants of Immenstadt, where they were treated with great politeness by the locals. They also spent lots of time at the Hotel Hirsch, where the staff were warm and friendly and made sure they had everything they needed.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, but the group took away many happy memories. The success of the trip would not have been possible without the dedication of Paul Jones, David Wallace and Mike Woolgar, who put in a lot of hard work behind the scenes to make sure the trip ran smoothly.

This trip is an inspiring experience for all concerned. The guides learn that being visually impaired need not be a cage. And the skiers experience the greatest freedom they are ever likely to know.