Gone are the days when winter sports resorts could get away with providing little or no facilities for those with disabilities. Today, thankfully, the modern resorts are working hard to improve their accessibility credentials. Thanks to the spotlight that’s been placed on winter sports at the Winter Paralympic Games, neither the resorts nor potential practitioners see the world of winter sports as exclusively for the able-bodied anymore.
The resort of Val d’Isère is one of the winter sports resorts in France that leads the way in this field, working hard to ensure that its lifts, ski schools and accommodation welcome anyone who wants to enjoy the snow here. And when you visit the vast 300km Espace Killy winter sports region, which allows you to reach altitudes of up to 3488m, there is always plenty of snow to enjoy.
The glacial skiing in Tignes (joined to Val d’Isère by a fantastic network of fast, modern lifts) means that the season here lasts from late autumn until late spring. And throughout these months, there are ski lessons and adapted equipment that’s available for practitioners with disabilities.
A Warm Welcome for Visitors with Disabilities
So determined is Val d’Isère to show off its accessibility credentials that it offers visitors with a certificate of 80 percent disability or more a whopping 50 percent off the price of their lift passes. (As adult lift passes for the Val d’Isere and Tignes area cost an eye-watering €332.50 for seven days, and a child’s seven-day pass costs €266, that’s a welcome reduction to the cost of any family winter sports holiday).
But it’s not just discounts that are important. If you or your children need adaptive ski equipment, the resort will have everything you need, including a number of ski schools with highly qualified instructors for disabled visitors. Local ski schools, including Oxygene and Ski-Lessons.com, as well as the national École du Ski Français (ESF), all offer private lessons for disabled visitors, using a range of adapted equipment including Piloted Dual, Taxi and Dual varieties.
Hiring the Right Equipment
Many would-be practitioners have sat at home and watched the Winter Paralympics and dreamt about taking to the slopes. But finding the right equipment for each individual is very important. You will need to consider whether you want to, or are able to, ski alone or with a guide or instructor, and choose your equipment accordingly. The good news is that adaptive skiing is booming right now as more and more advances are made in specialised equipment, meaning that each season there is a greater range of adapted gear to choose from. Here are a few must-haves!
This is a great one for independent practitioners with good upper-body mobility and balance. It’s a bucket seat attached to a frame, which in turn is attached to a single ski. The user then steers by leaning and with the aid of outrigger sticks.
Again, a bucket seat is attached to articulating skis. It can be piloted by an independent user, with outrigger poles for extra stability if needed, or by an assistant who can travel down independently behind the frame.
This is similar to the mono, but instead has two skis attached. Upper-body mobility is again required to pilot this device.
This is a great choice for younger winter sports fans or those with limited upper-body mobility as it is driven by a pilot at the back. Also a great option for first time users who want to get a taste of downhill before trying it alone.
This is perfect for cross country or Nordic as the bucket seat is attached to the longer, thinner Nordic equipment and pushed along by poles. Again, upper-body mobility is required.
How to Get to Val d’Isére
Getting to Val d’Isére is easy with regular flights from the UK flying to Geneva, Chambéry, Grenoble or Lyon. The transfer time varies, depending on the airport you choose. Driving times from Geneva are around three hours and around two hours from Chambéry.
The airport transfer company Shuttle Direct is very experienced with providing transport for passengers with accessibility issues, so I would recommend booking a transfer with them online before you set off. Just remember to let them know what your specific needs are (e.g. wheelchair access) at the time of booking.
Where to Stay
Résidence Pierre & Vacances La Daille – The spacious, open-plan apartments at the Résidence Pierre & Vacances La Daille are ideal for those with mobility issues. The accommodation is conveniently close to local amenities and only 200 yards from the lifts, and there’s also Wi-Fi throughout the apartment.
Résidence Pierre & Vacances Les Balcons de Bellevarde – Set close to the shops and lifts of La Daille (part of the Val d’Isère resort) the Résidence Pierre & Vacances Les Balcons de Bellevarde offer spacious apartments that are close to the slopes.
Hôtel Auberge Saint Hubert– For charming Alpine style and great accessibility, try the three-star Hôtel Auberge Saint Hubert in the heart of Val d’Isère. The restaurant here is excellent, and there’s a free afternoon tea, which is perfect for warming you up after a day on the slopes.
About Shuttle Direct
Shuttle Direct is the leading provider of airport transfers in Europe and North Africa. With many years of experience with providing accessible transport for passengers with disabilities, all the drivers are trained and ready to help. Just let Shuttle Direct know when you’re booking what your specific needs are likely to be, and they will ensure they are met.