Metro Annual Ski trip 2015 – Beitostolen in Norway
On the 8th of March 2015 a group of 23 (including 5 sighted partners) left the UK on six different flights for Beitostolen in Norway to take part in the 52nd Ridder Week. I arrived at 5.30 am at Heathrow terminal 5 (which is massive) and came across Mike and Mo Brace wandering around in the duty free. Eleven of us were newbies to cross county skiing. So what were our first impressions? It was a three hour journey by coach to the hotel. Not being one for sight seeing tours for obvious reasons, even I couldn’t fail to be impressed by the scenery en route.
After checking in and eating far too much of the excellent food in the restaurant it was off to the sports hall to meet our individual guide for the week.Monday morning came and it was time to tackle the snow for the first time. It felt very strange wearing skis and I cautiously began taking a few pigeon steps hanging on to the ski poles for dear life. My guide Oliver then informed me there was a hill – too late I was already at the bottom of it in a heap.
Part of the challenge was learning to communicate effectively with the guides who had quite a task on their hands not only were they having to adjust to the level of sight their participant did or didn’t have but they had to convey these instructions and directions in English. As the week progressed I gradually improved my technique to just about a passable level and managed to complete the 10k event in a time acceptable to me.
For someone who was very dubious about going on a cold holiday, I thoroughly enjoyed being outside in the clean mountain air away from the noise and stress of London (well Surrey actually).
Away from the cross country skiing there were other snow based activities available including snowboarding and snowshoeing. Also a few members of our party were lucky enough to get a ride behind the huskies on the dog sled which was part of a multi-sports day that had been arranged.
Evenings usually consisted of indulging in the evening meal and catching up with each other’s triumphs and disasters of the day. There was entertainment laid on in the evenings including a karaoke and a talent night on which we were treated to Harish’s dulcet tones crooning away and strumming his guitar.
For someone for the word holiday usually means packing bikinis and sun lotion I think I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this whole experience Physically it was quite challenging and I think you do need a reasonable level of fitness to get the most out of it. I am certainly planning to go again and look forward to improving on my techniques and knocking ten minutes off my time for next year.
article by Joanna Turnbull
Metro Members Make Magic On Snow
On 7th April 2013, six Metro Members plus 2 sighted guides (the wives of 2 of the members), set off for the 50th anniversary Beitostolen cross country ski week. They were part of a group of 14 competing in this very special event. Each VI participant is allocated a guide on their arrival and plan their skiing activities throughout the week including their participation in 3 races arranged in age and sight categories.
Accommodation is in a 4 star hotel with swimming pool, live music every night, and superb food all included. The costs would normally be prohibitive, ie £1000 for the week, but the British group receive significant financial support from the Anglo Norse fund, and a very welcome subsidy from Metro itself.
So, how did our Metro Members get on? The answer is, very well. Jim Denton won a bronze medal in the ski shooting, with Janice Newman winning a number of medals in her category. I, (Mike brace) missed out on a medal in the ski shooting finishing fourth and of course, blame a faulty gun for my failure! Ken Bodden, despite a major health scare earlier this year whilst skiing in America, completed all his events and received his plaque for finishing 35 Ridder Rennet’s (the main race at the end of the week). Our illustrious Chairman Roy and his wife Kathy also attended. Roy did well completing all his races and was rightly proud not to have come last in any of them. One of my lasting memories of the week however was passing Roy in one of the races. Roy was spread eagle across all the tracks (and given the size of Roy I do mean all of the tracks) and racers had to go out in the deep snow in order to get past him. Kathy in contrast skipped around the tracks and did very respectable times in all her events.
The snow this year was fantastic, unlike the previous 2 years, and the warmth and friendliness of the guides and organisers was a major feature of the week. The Guides (over 400 of them) were drawn from Physio therapy and sports colleges, businesses and the armed forces. The only potential down side to the week was the prohibitive cost of alcohol, but even this was circumvented by our intrepid travellers by the secretion of wine boxes in their luggage, and the purchase of copious bottles of wine and spirits in the duty free shop on the way out.
The availability of something good to drink also helped make our singing sound good, well at least to us, at the usual room party with Kenny on the guitar.
Next year’s event is from 30th March to 6th April 2014 and, if the snow is half as good then as it was this year, it should be absolutely fantastic. I can’t wait.
MIKE BRACE CBE
The Battle of the Groin – Your Web Editor’s Exploits on the Snow
On 3rd April 2011, yours truly and nine other Metro members jetted off to Beitostolen, Norway, for a week of fun in the snow. We were off to Ridderweek, an annual international cross country skiing event in Norway for visually impaired and physically disabled skiers. Metro members were very fortunate that Zurich Bank agreed to provide a subsidy for our trip, which was then matched by Metro. This made the visit much more affordable, as though it is an immensely fun and worthwhile trip, it is rather expensive.
At Ridderweek, all visually impaired skiers are allocated a guide. The guide assists in the way that best meets the skier’s needs and preferences. If you’re a beginner, the guide will show you how to ski, and if you’re a seasoned skier, they will give you tips to improve your technique. Cross country skiing involves skiing in ready prepared tracks in the snow, and another role of the guide is to ski close to the visually impaired skier to give them information about the terrain and to ensure they stay safely in the tracks.
To put it at it’s kindest, I am not a ‘seasoned skier’. I’m totally blind, and I’d only attended Ridderweek once before, and that was four years ago. I therefore needed to learn how to ski pretty much from scratch. The one thing I did learn was just how many ways I could fall down in the snow. I fell backwards, forwards, sideways, and every which way! My guide, Stefan, became very adept at picking me up, dusting me off, and assuring me that I really was improving; and I’m quite a hardy soul, so I just ploughed on regardless, until I fell down again, and again… We developed quite a routine.
But seriously, it was a marvellous experience to do such a different activity, outdoors and in the lovely sunshine. It was great to have the time to socialise with my fellow skiers too. One evening, the British contingent even staged an impromptu folk session in one of the hotel rooms, much I imagine, to the general bemusement of our European and American counterparts.
As well as the opportunity to learn how to ski (in my case), or to improve your technique (in the case of some of my more accomplished companions); there is also the chance to participate in various races. These include: a five KM race for women or a ten KM race for men; a biathlon (a six KM ski coupled with sonic rifle shooting); and the 20 KM Ridder Rennet race.
I enthusiastically tackled the 5 km race and the Ridder Rennet Race. Though, due to snow conditions, the Ridder Rennet race was reduced from 20 to 9.2 km. To be truthful, this was a great relief to me! So feeling well up for a good race, I set off on the Ridder Rennet track, only to slip a few metres along, do the splits, and pull my groin in the process. I’m nothing if not a sticker though, so I manfully continued, trying not to curse too often. I think Stefan may have extended his vocabulary somewhat after a week in my company. On completing the track, and by now feeling incredibly proud of, not to say sorry for, myself, I headed back to the hotel for a post race beer and comparison of notes with my husband and esteemed Metro Treasurer, Eamonn, only to discover that he’d suffered a similar affliction as me along the way. After consuming a number of the aforementioned beverages, being an Irishman and reasonably knowledgeable about that nation’s history, Eamonn suggested that the Ridder Rennet should be renamed ‘the Battle of the Groin’, hence the title of this article – it wasn’t just to tempt you into reading it, honest! Needless to say, we both enjoyed grizzling over our respective minor sports injuries for a while, until after a couple of days we were back to normal, and you wouldn’t even have known we’d been so heroic and brave!
There were a number of rather skilful Great Britain skiers in attendance though, several Metro members amongst them. Altogether Great Britain garnered a fair few medals: six gold, one silver and five bronze. I even achieved a bronze medal myself for my age and sight category in the 5 km race! The fact that there were only three people competing in that particular instance doesn’t alter this, I just tend to keep it quiet, so don’t tell anyone, will you?