There is little doubt that the work of Disabled Wintersport Australia (DWA) is becoming more and more prominent at Mt Hotham.
By providing guides and adaptive ski equipment, DWA allows people with disabilities to enjoy an on-snow experience or help others regain their love for the snow after a life changing accident.
With an ever-increasing demand for DWA services and programs more volunteer adaptive snow sport guides and ongoing support to fund equipment and upgrades are required.
The Hotham community continues to increase its backing of DWA but Resort Services Coordinator for DWA, Phil Knight, says a significant addition this season been another recognisable face.
Nick Ames, who some might know as one of the physiotherapists at the Hotham Medical Centre over the past two years, has joined Phil this winter to assist with all DWA activities.
“Getting Nick on board has been absolutely fantastic, it provides backup for myself and means there is another local face that represents DWA on the mountain,” he said.
“Part of our role is to be visible on the mountain and to provide information about DWA which is what we are able to do just from having conversations with people on chairlifts each day.”
Growth across the board
DWA caters for members and clients who suffer from a range of disabilities including vision impairment, acquired brain injuries, paraplegia and quadriplegia and serious illnesses.
Last year the organisation delivered 330 volunteer days at Hotham, which was twice as many as 2017 and that number is expected to be topped again thanks to 200 confirmed bookings already.
DWA also trained 16 new guides at the resort this season, the most it ever has at one time, resulting in more than 75 trained volunteers expressing interest in guiding at some stage in 2019.
“I got involved last year after talking about it with my son who is an adaptive ski instructor here,” Nick said.
“I’ve also done my guide training so that gives us the potential to train up more guides which is what we aim to do and have to do as we get a flux of people coming and going.
“Guiding can be hard work but it’s very rewarding…I love skiing and it’s great to share that with people and their family and friends who probably thought they could never get out there together.”
Hotham continues to embrace DWA
Both Mount Hotham Alpine Resort Management Board and Mount Hotham Skiing Company support the efforts of DWA by providing, disabled parking, wheelchair access to buses and the day centre, lift ticket concessions and a motorised wheelchair for those needing help to get around the resort.
Additional aid in recent years has come from many groups including Dinner Plain Primary School, Hotham Boardriders and donations from individuals and families.
The generous efforts of many allowed DWA to purchase four new sit skis ahead of winter, items that don’t come cheaply, costing between $8,000 and $12,000 each.
With a rapidly growing membership and equipment constantly evolving, further investment will go towards new sit skis, both dual and mono, and other essential items including outriggers (crutches with ski tip on base), snowsliders (walking frame on skis) and vision impaired vests.
Next step a new home
Another priority of DWA is to find a significantly bigger base than the shipping container they currently occupy next to the Summit chairlift.
The dream is to one day have a facility to store and maintain equipment and a warm and dry space for members to change before and after they hit the slopes.
“DWA is still in its infancy here, I’d say we’re still on the ground floor in terms of where we can and want get to,” Phil says.
“We’re privileged to do what we do and just because someone has a disability doesn’t mean they can’t take risks and experience the exhilaration of skiing.
“We’ve had some members who are quadriplegic who despite needing help to load on and off a lift can ski the village loop completely independently and that’s a pretty awesome achievement.
“Our biggest satisfaction comes from seeing sit skiers out enjoying the slopes just like anyone else.”