Hannah's DSUK Diary:

"Skiing has always been a big passion of mine since I first went on skis at 18 months old with the pictures showing a massive grin on my face! Growing up we used to ski every Christmas which we loved and it wasn't long before me and my siblings could ski better than my parents, and it was on these holidays I told my parents I was going to be a ski instructor one day. That dream never changed and it was through an unexpected door at university in 2010 which a whole new world would be open to me. I had to do some volunteer work for part of a module and after some google searching I found DSUK. I started to volunteer at the local Hemel group helping on the lifts, assisting skiers, learning and having so much fun. As the months went past, my skill level and confidence had increased dramatically and I loved traveling from bath to Hemel and back again on a Sunday once a month and skiing with new found friends.

After graduating, I ended up going on an activity week to Sestriere as a volunteer. I was so nervous arriving at the airport not knowing what to expect, but it was a truly amazing week full of laughs, great skiing and a better understanding around various disabilities. I am still in contact with friends I made on that trip. I loved everything about adaptive skiing and I was going to finally fulfill that dream of being a ski instructor and travel the world. I got my alpine and adaptive level 1 qualifications and the excitement was real. A few months later I had taken the plunge and moved to Banff in Canada with a 1 way ticket, 2 weeks accommodation and a part time job lined up assuming they liked me in person. Within a few weeks things had fallen into place, I had a place to live, 3 part time jobs and a set of international friends and the snow had started to fall. I got a job working at sunshine village as an alpine ski instructor and a job teaching adaptive skiing with the rocky mountain adaptive sports centre. It's safe to say I was in my element and loved it! It wasn't always easy, there were times I was tested emotionally and physically but the rewards were huge. The season flew by and I was gutted it was over and 9 months later I returned home.

I missed the mountains so another visa was applied for and I headed back out to Banff, this time with my sister in tow. I resumed my job with the adaptive ski school as this is where my heart was happiest. I had the season of my life, teaching so many different people with a wide variety of disabilities. I remember making a ski movie using a Go-Pro with a 6 year old during one lesson for his school project, I was assisting a young girl on her school ski trip who used a bi-ski and she just wanted to ski with her friends so we gate crashed her friends lessons and skied as a group and the feeling of pride of teaching a kid how to carve, seeing their sense of achievement and knowing they are now part of the Canadian para alpine team. These were just a few of my highlights but I believe anyone can ski given the right equipment, instruction and opportunities. That season, I achieved ski instructor of the year, something I was very proud of.

Summer came and went with a few odd health issues here and there and I was looking forward to another season when everything changed. Christmas time of 2014 and a nasty bout of the flu and a series of seizures had caused havoc with my brain and body. I had to learn to walk, talk and function all over again. I had gone from living my dream into a new, scary and unfamiliar world. I slowly rebuilt my life, the first few years being a true roller coaster ride gaining many more diagnosis and health issues along the way. I knew I wanted to ski again and knew of all the possibilities out there so went back to Hemel. The first time I went back out I was terrified, what if I couldn't do it anymore or hated it?Within a few runs, it had come back and I felt the freedom skiing brings, but it was painful and I tired quickly. I went on holiday to ski which was great but I was limited depending on pain, energy and weakness levels often having to nap mid way through the day to sustain energy levels. I went back to Hemel and decided to try sit skiing as they had space on a taster day. It was a weird experience knowing how it should work but trying to get my body to do what I wanted it to was another story! I loved it and was grinning from ear to ear.

I then re-joined the monthly group at Hemel, seeing some old faces from when I used to volunteer but also meeting new friends. Sit skiing had become my new freedom, get adrenaline rushes and socialise with other like minded people. I soon purchased my own dual ski and I love it. I personalised it with a sticker which says "does my bum look big in this?" and its a fun way to breakdown barriers and engages people in conversation and education. We have taken it abroad a few times to la Plagne, France where we know the resort, runs and ski school well. Even 1 restaurant owner recognises us each year and makes sure we have a table when we rock up! I would love to head back to Canada and see old friends, I want to try new resorts and I would love to get back into teaching or assisting with sit skiing lessons. So you could say my journey with adaptive snowsports and DSUK has come full circle. My passion for skiing hasn't changed, if anything it has only increased! The freedom, the buzz, the exploration, socialising and community are just a few reasons why I love to ski.

I have no idea where my ski journey will go next, but hopefully it won't be too long until I can hit the dizzy heights of Hemel once more!"

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