Back on the slopes with Battle Back

Monday the 23rd at 03.00 hours and the alarm wakes me up. The transport would be here at 04.30 and I needed to be ready. With help from my Wife with dressing and packing the few final things I was waiting for the transport to arrive. My Battalion had organised up a car and two lads to drive me to the airport and to help me with my luggage when we got there. The journey was unhindered by traffic but obviously not road works as the M3 was as cone ridden as ever and as we neared the 06.30 time the traffic began to clog everything up. We did however make reasonable time and arrived at Heathrow’s terminal five at around 07.30. I waited the hour and a half before going through to the gate from which the aircraft would be boarded. Here I met another Battle Back student who is a single amputee but who uses his wheelchair for comfort. British Airways again excelled at getting me on to the aircraft and looking after me during the flight ensuring also that my wheelchair was there to meet me at the aircraft door when we landed. At Munich airport the staff were equally helpful, collecting my bags from the carousel and getting me through the customs area. With all of this completed they took me out to the lobby area where I would meet up with someone from Battle Back, I did not know who it would be but I was sure that they would be easily recognisable or would be able to figure out who we were. As we rolled out through the doors in to the lobby there was a familiar face, a face that I did not think I would see for the skiing but was really chuffed that he was here, it was Jon.

Jon and Ash were the two main instructors on the last skiing course I went on and they are, to be frank, barking. They bounce off of each other so well there are rarely dull moments when they are around and I am pleased to say that despite their time away, the “bromance” is still alive and thriving (will mean nothing to most but will make any associated with Battle Back chuckle”. Jon drove the “Timmywagon” (your guess is as good as mine on the name) to the lodge and as we travelled along the roads closer to the town which we would be staying in, I noticed that the snow was a lot less than the previous year. Jon did tell me that the snow on the slopes we would be using was more than had been there when we left last year so we would at least be having more area on the slopes to ski. We arrived at the lodge and moved the cases in to the room which was the same room I was in last time I was here. With the cases in I was introduced to the new “Team George”. Kev is no longer serving and Hannah was unable to attend this time due to work commitments, she had however sent one of her staff to replace her. With an initial briefing taken care of one of the staff sorted my bed out and helped me square my cases away. The rest of the afternoon was spent with me being lifted in to the Dual Ski and it being adjusted to fit me, making sure as far as possible that nothing would damage my skin. It was around 21.00 that I got in to bed and by all accounts from the other lads in the room, it was less that a couple of minutes before I was fully in the land of sleepy bo bo.

Today, (Tuesday), started with Ash in no way disappointing us with the choice of music for the mornings drive to the slopes and essentially let all outside of the bus know what the course was going to be for the new “Team George”, he had chosen Madness! It was clearly a popular choice with the rest of the course as they were all bouncing to the music as we drove past them out of the lodge car park. With the music playing at a level that most of Germany would have heard, we headed to the slopes which I learned on last time I was here and I was really hoping that it would not take too long for me to get back in to the swing of it. My aim this time is to ski the blue slope solo. Whilst the blue slopes are the beginners slopes, for me to ski it solo would be a huge achievement for me and so that is what I am aiming for. The skiing today went really well. We started with Ash “bucketing” which means he was holding on to the frame of the ski and steering while I was looking in the direction I wanted to go to shift my weight which would initiate the turn. This did not go well as I cannot get my body to tip to the left. Eventually though I used my riggers to help me shift my weight. After a couple of goes at this we progressed to me having riggers on the floor and Ash driving, the natural progression from here was to go on to the tethers. This we did and it went really well. I was happy that I was able to identify when I was losing my balance and was able to correct it with the riggers. I was able to change direction using the “C” shapes to waste off the speed and then changing to the “S” shape as the snow became a bit sticky finally simple “direction changes” when it became quite slushy. The day is broken up with me having to be lifted out of the ski back I to my chair and then my skin being checked for marks and to relieve pressure, just a couple of the problems that could cause things to go really wrong. So far though, so good. All in all a really good day in which I feel that I have accomplished some good goals. The Tinterwebbythingamabobby is busted again so I can’t upload this and so I will write a bit tomorrow and upload when I can.

Wednesday 25th and the day did not start well. The “Timmywagon” wouldn’t start and so Ash had to call out across the car park to another group for a jump start. Fortunately the battery was not completely knackered and so with the leads connected and the minibus which was jumping us revving up, the “Timmywagon” sprang in to life we were again pleased with the choice of music from our very own maestro Ash as today’s journey would be played in with Guns and Roses! The snow is melting and there was a marked difference in the amount on the ground on our journey to the slopes today. There were more green patches on the slopes too which is not a good sign but thankfully the slope staff are moving snow around to keep the slopes open. Today I had to practice “C” shapes which I could only do for two of the runs as the snow got sticky really quickly. Time then to change out for the “S” shapes but even this was difficult as the snow was not fast enough meaning I was merely making long “S” shapes and direction changes or “long radius turns” as the technical term should be. We did move on to the main blue slope away from the “Goat track” that I had been skiing on so far. This enabled me to produce some really good “S” shape turns and really waste the speed off on the turns. It did also mean though that my momentum was greater and this did occasionally result in my “creaming in”. My route choice and decision making has improved today and I feel that my turns have improved also. Overall I do feel that I have progressed and that my skiing in general is a marked improvement despite it only being day two. I have had to wear my wrist splint all day though as the wrist is playing up somewhat. I am not stupid enough to simply crack on if it gives me too much pain and Ash and the Physio are aware of it so between us we keep an eye on it. I am hoping that tomorrow we can go longer between rests as my skin is not marking (so far) and so the risk of problems looks to be slight. With luck we can go to two rests which will give us longer on the slopes. An added problem though is my bladder, this could cause us to require to stop more from now on as I have had to go back to my normal routine of self catheterising due to a problem. With luck though it will not cause us too much aggravation. Well, the tinterwebby is still down so again, I will have to try to post this tomorrow. Untill then though. Nighty nighty night night.

Thursday the 26th of March 2015, today is the day that I achieved my aim. The aim I had set myself to be achieved by the end of the course. First thing this morning I had some issues that I needed time to sort out which put our departure time to the slopes back by half an hour which was not a massive problem but did annoy me a little, with me sorted though we set off for the slopes. It had been raining all night and was still drizzling when we left the lodge, not the weather we were hoping for but we hoped that the altitude on the slopes would have meant that snow had been falling there, if it had been raining there all night the skiing would be less than great. We arrived to a really light snow fall, more like being behind someone with really bad dandruff and certainly nothing that would add to the fading snow and so we simply had to get out on the slope and see for ourselves what it was like. Ash, Stew and Andy lifted me in to the Dualski and we headed to the T bar lift. The aim was for Ash to tether me down the slope so we could decide how we would proceed with my training. We completed the “Goat track” and we again ascended the slope on the lift, at the top Ash said that the snow was slow and so he had a great idea. The great idea was to see how long I could stay upright not on the tethers, but SOLO. Solo was my aim for the end of the course and this was day three but if Ash reckond I could do it then I was up for the challenge. He launched me as soon as i told him I was ready and I began the descent making “lazy S shapes” or “direction changes” as I had been taught by Ash. The snow was not fast enough for me to be “wasting the speed” and so I needed to keep momentum but practice the change of direction. Five changes of direction I managed, well four if you count the ones I stayed upright on as I crashed in on the fifth but I was well happy with that. No one to save me or correct it when things went “Pete Tong”, I was not the only one who was happy with what I just done either as Ash made his way toward me with his arms in the air and a big smile on his face. He and Stu came over in order to pick me up and we were off again. Part of the “Goat track” is quite slow and so Ash would connect with the ski to assist me through the slow stuff and then launch me again so that I could continue. We did this several times with me wanting to better my previous distance before falling. The second time that I attempted the solo ride down the track I made it all the way to the bottom which was amazing. I continued to have success with the occasional fall but on one occasion in particular, I passed the cafe completely solo when the rest of the course and instructors were watching. As I passed there was a huge cheer which I have to be honest I didn’t take on board as I was concentrating so hard to stay upright. Today was an amazing day, I accomplished something which at the same point in the course last year I never thought I would be capable of doing and whilst I am not capable at present to ski on fast snow as I have not mastered wasting the speed, nothing can take away from the fact that today, on the 26th of March 2015, I rode the dualski SOLO, and I am BUZZING!!!

Goodnight all. (I am more than a little fatigued!)

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