The nights are getting shorter so that can only mean one thing – wrapping up and hibernating while you wait for the warmer spring weather. Or does it?
By Alison Dando
Of course not, winter shouldn’t curtail your outdoor activities just because the weather gets colder. In fact, if you are willing to embrace the winter months, you can discover a wealth of cold-weather ways to keep you active as well as making the most of the health and wellbeing benefits of the great outdoors.
Here’s our brief guide to some of the best adaptive winter sports and activities to try as the days get colder…
You couldn’t fail to be caught up in the excitement of the curling at the 2018 Winter Paralympics and even though ParalympicsGB didn’t manage to scoop a medal, it raised the profile of this unusual sport.
Curling is particularly well-suited for wheelchair users. Although there is currently only one dedicated curling rink in England – near Tunbridge Wells – Scotland has 22 ice rinks with the facilities for the game.
Wheelchair curling is growing in popularity and brings the fun, social element that’s inherent in team sports, to the ice. It is a great winter sport for people with a range of disabilities and mobility issues and can help to build upper body strength. It’s also a game of strategy, concentration and focus, as well as coordination. The season for wheelchair curling runs from September through to spring, so it’s good for getting you out and about during those cold winter months.
Wowed by GB Paralympian, Menna Fitzpatrick and her breath-taking performance at this year’s Winter Olympics in PyeongChang? Then take to the slopes and try out skiing for yourself! Adaptive skiing is on the increase in the UK, with the last two Winter Paralympics inspiring more disabled people to give it a go.
Most slopes and ski clubs have facilities and courses for disabled skiers and advances in equipment mean it’s even more accessible for people with a wide range of physical disabilities. Guides for visually impaired skiers and Bluetooth technology have also been a real boost in providing real-time communication between instructor and student (via headsets). And, with five Scottish ski resorts, as well as over 30 dry slopes, plus six real snow indoor centres around the UK, there’s plenty of opportunity to get on the ‘piste’.
Even if you’re not planning a skiing holiday, taking to the slopes here in the UK is well worth the effort. Not only is it great fun but it’s good for your physical and mental health.
Learning to ski can benefit most people with physical disabilities, visual impairments or learning difficulties. Skiing means you have to work on your balance, coordination and concentration while providing a great all-round workout that helps with your core stability.
If you’re looking for extra cool this winter, then snowboarding may well be for you. Adaptive snowboarding is becoming increasingly popular and, with its single platform, offers more stability than skiing if balance is a challenge.
While snowboarding is not yet truly adapted, a sit-down board is in development in Europe which could be a game-changer for wheelchair users. However, snowboarding is still a great winter sport for people with physical, visual or learning disabilities, accordingly to Disability Snowsport UK. The accessible winter sports organisation, which runs its own adaptive snowboard course at several indoor snow centres in the UK, has also found that people using prosthetic limbs take well to snowboarding as snow boots are more flexible than ski boots, giving easier movement.
For more information on adaptive snowboarding, visit:
Why not use the winter months to channel your inner Torvill and Dean and book a session at your local ice rink? With over 50 ice rinks around the whole of the UK, many offer ice-skating sessions for people with physical and learning disabilities, including visual and hearing impairments.
While it may feel counter-intuitive to step onto an icy surface, particularly if you have a physical disability, with the right support and equipment it can be a totally exhilarating experience. Depending on your individual needs, accessible ice-skating sessions can be done on skates, in a wheelchair or in a purpose-built sledge. Guides or one-to-one instructors may also be available, access provided for assistance dogs and tours offered so you can familiarise yourself with the venue and rink before getting on to the ice.
Ice skating is an experience that’s great for building confidence, balance and coordination as well as your aerobic and cardio health. And let’s not forget it’s great fun and a good way to socialise, so get your skates on!
If competitive team sports are your thing and you’d like to try more of a fast-paced adapted ice activity, then para – or sledge – hockey could be your new winter sport obsession. It’s an adrenaline ride that can be played on or off the ice, potentially offering you a new year-round activity.
Adapted sit-down sledges allow players to move around the rink using sticks to propel in a similar way to skiing. A full-contact sport with the same rules as able-bodied ice hockey, it can also be played by mixed ability teams. Para hockey provides aerobic exercise as well as building that all-important core stability – and as a blast of a game that gets you to work as a team, it is a great mood and confidence booster! There are currently five rinks in the UK which offer British Sledge Hockey. For more information, visit: www.britishsledgehockey.co.uk
Winter hiking and climbing
When the winter weather allows, there is nothing better than wrapping up warm and getting out into the countryside. Being outdoors is good for your general wellbeing and mental health as well as for your physical fitness and the beauty of the winter landscape can be explored by foot, with a guide/assistance dog or by wheelchair.
The Ramblers Association’s website – www.ramblers.org.uk – is full of really useful information about accessible hiking and lists walking routes for people with reduced mobility as well as guided walks you can join. Or visit: www.disabledramblers.co.uk for year round walking groups near to you.
If climbing is something that you would like to try, then the British Mountaineering Council – www.thebmc.co.uk – has guidance on accessible climbing and courses around the UK, including indoor climbing walls – perfect for the dark winter months. There are also several other organisations that provide indoor and outdoor climbing and abseiling courses for people with physical and learning disabilities – including the Bendrigg Trust – www.bendrigg.org.uk
Find a winter sport
Don’t hibernate, get out and active – and find a club or winter sport near you.
Created by the British Paralympic Association, Parasport lists a range of accessible sports and associated clubs around the UK.
Check out their sport and club finder at: www.parasport.org.uk