World’s largest winter sports week for disabled skiers
This week, from 7-14 April, the resort of Beitostølen is hosting their 50th Ridderweek – an event which was originally founded back in 1964 with just 57 participants – all blind skiers.
Now, fifty years on, the 500-plus participants come from fourteen different countries as far afield as Vietnam, Canada and the USA, including a dozen competitors from the UK. The lower age limit is 15 years. There is no upper age limit!
They’re all here in Beitostølen for an extensive programme of skiing activities, training and competitions for all classes of visually and mobility-disabled persons from total beginners to Paralympic pros.
The competitions cover numerous disciplines, including cross-country skiing (in adapted ski tracks at the Beitostølen Health Sport Center) and biathlon (6km cross-country coupled with lazer rifle shooting); plus downhill and snowboard racing competitions on the main slopes, accessed by the main OLA lift.
The classification system is being run by the Norwegian Skiing Federation, using a simplified version of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) classification rules.
The disabled skiers and boarders are accompanied on the slopes by sighted guides (mostly students from different colleges in Norway who have been trained by the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences).
Highlights of the week include tomorrow’s mountain race; the biathlon and snowboard competitions on Wednesday; the dual slalom, 10km and 5km cross-country races on Thursday; the mixed relay and giant slalom on Friday and, on Saturday, the 50th Ridderrennet race, with tracks of 20km, 10km, 5km or 2km – open to all competitors.
Even the Crown Princess, the Crown Prince and his wife, the Princess of Norway, are attending at the weekend – they are going to act as guides for some of the athletes.
The FSN team has been out on the sunny, warm slopes of Beitostølen with Crystal Ski watching some of the downhill and slalom training today. We’ve seen mono-skiers, blind skiers, skiers with outriggers… the camaraderie between competitors of all nations, their guides and the army teams who are running the event, is tangible.
But above all, there is a remarkable atmosphere between beginners and Paralympic medal winners of mutual inspiration and motivation. It’s easy to see why everyone comes back to Beitostølen for the annual Ridderweek year after year.
Crystal Ski is starting package holidays to Beitostølen next season, with prices from £417pp for self-catering and £819pp half-board, all based on 4 sharing, and including flights and transfers. Kids under 7 are entitled to a free lift pass and a free child helmet if you pre-book ski and boot hire. If you book a January 2014 departure by 30 April 2013, you are also eligible for ‘2 for 1’ lift passes. These offers are correct at time of press but are subject to Ts & Cs and availability.
Other related posts:
Crystal Ski returns to Norway
Dog-sledding with an ex-Paralympian skier
Learn to Ski with Crystal in Norway
End of season celebrations in Norway
Let there be light
What are the Northern Lights?
Affordable skiing in Norway