Unleashed on the Slopes

We returned to Risoul late on Monday night triumphant and with the Dualski in the back of the van.


After a well deserved lie in we hit the slopes. We decided to practice the same way we had the previous day - start on a short slope, practice on a drag lift then move on the higher pistes and chairlifts.


The first stage went well. After pushing Tudur up the slope a few times we decided to attempt a drag lift. It had seemed reasonably straight forward the previous day. This was not the case this time though. It was hard enough getting the rope to stay attached to the drag lift and on the couple of occasions when it did and Tudur started off, after 10 feet or so he fell off the lift. The ground was a bit bumpy and the first corner kept throwing him off. So after a long queue had formed behind us we gave up and pushed back to the piste. We then had to push Tudur a fairly long way uphill to get to the chailifts. Fortunately several people came to help and between about 6 of us we got to the top.


Our first chairlift attempt was nerve racking but went smoothly enough. Going up on the lift we sat back and realised that the 3 of us, Dan, Tudur and myself were actually on a chairlift together for the first time after 3 years since we first planned to take Tudur skiing.  It was a good feeling!


Tudur's first run down the piste was hairy. Some sections were a lot steeper than what he had been down the day before. He was going well but was falling over a lot and only linking 1 or 2 turns at a time. The basic strategy was to get to the top of the piste and point Tudur downhill, the piste we were starting him on was a blue/green but some sections were more like a red run so we were literally dropping him in at the deep end. The only thing we could do to help, aside from picking him up when he fell over, was to follow him down shouting "TURN, TURN". When asked if shouting actually helped Tudur replied that it did make him turn quicker - at some points he went dangerously close to the edge of the piste.


The hairiest moment of all happened on this first day. We were on a steep section of the piste. Tudur was taking it slowly doing one turn at a time. He did a turn and I came down after him, I  came below him expecting him to stop but instead he started sliding backwards into me. He crashed into me and we got entangled and tumbled down the slope with me underneath the ski chair! It was a scary moment but somehow I managed to hold on and correct my position (underneath the chair not being a good place to be) and so managed to bring us safely to a stop.


We stayed there for a minute in a mild state of shock. We were both OK but not uninjured. Tudur had hurt his shoulder as we went over and I had a big ice burn on my hip. We had to call it a day at that point, Tudur was really struggling to carry on with his damaged shoulder. We limped down the rest of the piste back to the resort and went to the pub.


Tudur's shoulder got worse that evening and it was another touch and go situation as to whether he would be able to carry on. With a couple more days of skiing available this was another distressful situation. Some ibuprofen gel and a few pints seemed to help so all we could do was wait until the next to day to see how he felt.


The next day, with a stiff shoulder, Tudur stoically decided to carry on. We skipped the drag lift and went back to the same pistes that we had done the day before. This day was a whole lot more successful - Tudur was falling over far less often and was showing much more control over what he was doing. The challenge became to get down the entire piste in one go without falling over. The steeper sections still proved difficult however, and the section where our big tumble had occurred made Tudur think twice before he went down it.


We finished this day buzzing as Tudur had proved that he could now ski by himself, thanks to Pier Tessier and the Dualski, perseverance and little help from his friends. And in fact he had proved that the learning curve for a disabled person to learn to ski is much the same as an abled bodied person. If he had had the same equipment and positive tuition last time round he would have been much more advanced by now.


For Tudur's final day with the Dualski we determined to complete the challenge of having a clean run down the piste. He was going well for most of the day but still fell over on the steeper sections. Then, literally the last run of the day, and Tudur's last run of the week, he actually pulled it off! (See the video - Last Run of the Week). It was unbelievable. From everything that had happened to get to this point, to see Tudur nailing it down the piste, at some points struggling to keep up with him, was such an achievement - for Tudur, his friends and most of all for Tessier's equipment. Which is why we want to shout about Tessier and are raising money to buy a Dualski for Tudur.


We celebrated Tudur's last day with more than a few apres ski drinks. The rest of us were staying out for another week. Tudur had the opportunity to stay longer but unfortunately decided to go home as the chalet we were staying in wasn't accessible enough for him –he could barely get into the bathroom which to be fair was a big problem but you can't have everything!


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