Reader Profile - first paraplegic skiing holiday in Africa
After a skiing trip in Canada and France, Mathys Roets started planning for an African ski adventure in Lesotho. He recruited nine people who were interested in learning to sit-ski. The Silver Star Adaptive Snow Sports club of Vernon, Canada kindly donated a sit-ski to the newly formed South African Adaptive Skiers group. Only one of the guys had skiing experience and they were very excited to learn a new skill. They stayed at a guesthouse in Fouriesburg and drove through the spectacular Mahlasela Pass to the Afriski resort in Lesotho daily. The road has a few major potholes, but is still accessible in a sedan.
The group of paraplegics spread their stay over five days to get coaching and skiing lessons. Some of the guys had only been in a wheelchair for a few months, while others had been in a chair for over 30 years. Everyone enjoyed the experience and even the guys with higher lesions and poor balance managed to take part. The ski also has adaptions for tetraplegic users and the ski sticks fasten to your arms with Velcro.
Afriski provides the equipment, sit-ski lessons and accommodation; although only two of their rooms are wheelchair accessible. Hopefully though, with more people making use of the sit-ski, the resort will become more accessible.
Ski season runs from 6 June to 1 September. Instructor Dean Stephenson worked endlessly during the trip, never tiring of pushing, pulling, hitching, unhitching, loading, unloading and skiing down the slopes. He had the guys feeling like pros after just a few trips up and down the slopes.
The resort has a modest one kilometer main ski run which is serviced by a T-bar lift as well as three beginner lifts servicing a dedicated beginners learning area. It also boasts an extensive intermediate slope to help perfect your skills. The resort’s snow making system ensures that skiing is possible, whether it actually snows or not. Now a person with a mobility impairment can use the sit-ski, while their able-bodied friends and family, ski or snowboard right beside them. In only one morning you could be skiing safely down the slopes with an instructor.
So next time you plan your holiday, know that there is no need to fly to Europe or Canada to ski. You and your family can ski right here in Africa. Visit www.afriski.net and specify that you will need to use the sit-ski. Over time, if more people make use of the sit-skis, there might be more of them sponsored and even more people will be able to experience this amazing adventure!