Your essential checklist for a safe skiing holiday
Young Epilepsy Blogger, Tori Standing, shares her top tips before booking that all important winter sports holiday.
With six seasons under her jacket, including summer seasons in Greece, France and The Balearic Islands, Tori has gathered knowledge beyond the mountains.
I am a firm believer that epilepsy should never hold you back and that includes with sports! As a ‘seasonaire’ I spend five months out in the mountains every year and want to give you some top tips on how to stay safe this winter.
Chair lift harness
You can buy or rent a harness for when your going on chair lifts, this can be potentially life saving and is a must for anyone with epilepsy using chair lifts, it ensures that you will not fall off the lift if you happen to have a seizure whilst riding one. Usually Ski lift operators will be more than willing to slow the lift down for you to be able to attach and remove it safely, just make sure you inform them that you have one so they can radio the station you are departing from and tell them you will need more time to get off!
Ski resorts can become very sunny especially in the later months of the season. The sun reflects off the snow and can be incredibly bright, not only does this cause 'snow blindness' but could also be a trigger for a seizure. Be sure to equip yourself with a good pair of sunglasses and goggles to ensure you are protecting your eyes. If you have photosensitive epilepsy, it might be worth asking the tourist office the best places to go for Après ski or just general bars in the resort as some of these may have lighting which could cause a seizure, especially in the resorts known for partying!
Skiing or snowboarding in areas that are mapped and known to be safe is incredibly important. The danger of going off-piste is your whereabouts not being known and mountain rescue may find it difficult to attend to you if you have an accident whilst off-piste. You also wouldn't want to be paying the hefty price of a mountain rescue helicopter to come and pick you up!
Never ski or board alone
This goes without saying for anyone skiing or boarding! Being out on the mountain is more fun with friends anyway (and you need someone to be able to show off to) so watch out for each other and stay safe. Make sure your party know about your condition and seizure first aid.
These days it is the 'done thing' to wear a helmet while parttaking in winter sports. It is so important to protect your head, especially while doing winter sports, whether you have epilepsy or not. Be sure to get a helmet which fits correctly and is from a trusted brand. I would also recommend getting one that is well ventilated to avoid over heating. Buying or renting one in resort and getting it fitted properly is highly recommended, it may be a bit pricier but better than the consequences of falling without one!
Having the right insurance ensures those hefty hospital bills won't affect your holiday, if you do not inform your insurer of your condition all insurance will be revoked and you could end up with a huge fine.
Inform your hotel/hosts
Before you go on your holiday don't forget to inform your hosts or the hotel your staying in. They will know the resort like the back of their hand and be able to advise you on local hospitals/medical centers if you need one, they will be able to prepare anything you may need in the resort and also get information ready for you when you arrive.
Give yourself time
Don't rush into getting up the mountain as soon as you step off the plane, take time to adjust to the altitude and the change in weather as these can all affect your epilepsy by putting stress and strain on your body. Knowing your limits on the mountain is something to take into consideration; altitude can make you more tired much more quickly as your body has to work harder at altitude.
Mountain resorts and alcohol can often go hand in hand, with après ski and lots of bars around it’s hard to avoid the situation. Be sure to take extra care if you are consuming alcohol and never go against the directions of your anti epileptic drugs or GP, as this can increase your chances of having a seizure, alcohol in general does even if you're able to drink it. Maybe try a non-alcoholic beverage including non-alcoholic wine, which can be found on most drink menu's. Be sure not to let not drinking alcohol get in the way of you going out and having a good time, you do not need it to have a great holiday!
If you carry emergency medication make sure it’s easily accessible, and correctly stored. You can buy insulated medication packs from various websites including medpac.co.uk, which don't cost the earth and also easily attach to your snow pack. Always have some kind of ID visible so you and your condition is known to someone who may be trying to help you, having this translated into the language of the country you are in is also very helpful!
Professional medical advice
Make sure you visit your doctor to get advice which is personal to you before going on any type of trip or part taking in sport they will be able to give you advice on how to keep yourself safe.