November 2020

Image of sit skier

What we did

Adapting to help our members meet their goals in the most challenging of Winters

Our vision is “The equality of opportunity for people with disabilities to participate at all levels in the winter sport of their choice.”

Early March it looked unlikely that the Government would allow winter activities for Australia. Membership renewals and funding were under pressure. As advice came to light of mountain services, limitations such as 'no contact' challenged operations which require the lifting of sit skis, or assistance of visually impaired skiers. Continued working with the resorts and communication with our members highlighted how for many Winter Sports was a huge goal and equally important for Mental Health reasons this unique year.

We developed a COVIDSAFE plan that ultimately transformed our entire organisation. The changes will be with us long after the pandemic has passed. We conducted a thorough risk assessment across our entire operations, identifying areas we needed to adapt. We researched what were others doing, what options did we have? Ultimately, a new risk management plan, controls, policies, procedures and training were developed. These covered everything from how to clean the equipment, setting up a safe zone for gear waiting to be cleaned, to more mundane things like what to do if we couldn’t use public spaces on the mountain – all focused on enabling us to continue delivering our inclusive Snowsports experiences. It was an intense effort across our whole team but by early August 2020 we did it. Key steps that really helped make it work:

  • Engaged expertise early seeking help so we could move forward with confidence
  • A true team effort that included the board, our CEO, staff and our tireless volunteers - everyone pitched in to make it happen.
  • Agility - we used technology for continuous engagement and decision making
  • Focused on what we could do rather than what we couldn’t.

Why we did it

At the outset of the pandemic it would have been easy to give up and shut down the organisation. Perhaps that’s what many would have expected us to do. The obstacles seemed insurmountable; lots of gear that would normally be shared by skiers through the day on the mountain, volunteers providing lots of personal support to our members and it’s pretty hard to do a temperature check to ensure someone isn’t unwell when its -7 degrees on the snow!

It would have been easy to say “it’s just too hard” but we were also cognisant of the health and mental health benefits of enabling people to get outdoors and have fun with their families. Finding a way, “never giving up” ensuring everyone can have fun on the snow is part of the ethos of who DWA is. While the pandemic threatened to stop us in our tracks, just at the point where the organisation was gaining significant momentum, expanding into summer as well as winter sports, focused on growth, we were always going to find a way to make it work. And we did!

How we know it worked

Our initiative included a range of identified outcomes and evaluation:

  • First and foremost, we needed to be safe, for our staff our members.
  • It needed to be financially viable and we were seeking a sustainable approach that allowed us to retain all of our staff while operating at significantly reduced volumes. We developed target, best and worst-case scenarios for the organisations financial plan
  • We conducted a formal review and audit of our approach at regular intervals as we went and have ultimately shared our plans with the Office for Sport and the Ski Resorts.
  • We tested our training and processes on the snow for lessons learned and adjusted where things were impractical “on the ground”.
  • The snow resorts absorbed many aspects of our plan into their broader operating and inclusion principles