Get Involved… as a Veteran

Can I become a skier?

Our application procedure is now open for the Ski Week March 3rd to March 10th 2018. 

If you are a veteran of the British Armed Forces who has been discharged for medical reasons, you are eligible to join us on our annual Ski Week in 2018.

We’ve answered some of the most frequently asked questions below, but if you have any other queries, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Frequently Asked Questions

When is it?

Saturday March 3rd to Saturday March 10th 2018

How much will it cost?

Nothing for the basics, this trip has been paid for from the funds that have been raised. You just have to get to Heathrow Airport and we will take on all costs of transport, accommodation, all meals on the mountain including dinners, ski hire, ski instruction and we can also provide ski clothes for you too. Your drinks in the evening and any gifts you purchase are your only expenses.

Will I have my own room

In order to keep the costs down, you will likely be sharing a twin room. There is a very small provision of single rooms available to us, we normally request that the veteran pays the additional supplement of about 25GBP per day for this.

I've skied before - i'm not a beginner

That’s OK. We have groups of beginners, intermediates, and advanced as well as groups for sit skiers, beginners and advanced, 3 track and mono skis, we also can fully cater for blind skiers beginners or advanced.

What is the daily schedule?

A normal day would typically look like this:

7-7.30am breakfast in the hotel
8.15am meet in hotel to be taken to the ski lifts
9.00am morning skiing
12.00pm group lunch in the mountain
1.00pm afternoon skiing
3.30pm come down back to the hotel
4pm free time, swim, relax, sauna, walk, medic clinics, massage/osteo/physio/taping/psychotherapy etc if wanted
7pm dinner and evening entertainment

I need to take a lot of medication, will this be a problem?

No, if you are responsible for your medication at home you will easily be able to cope on the trip.

If you’d like to join us for 2018, please fill out this application form.

You will be required to fill out this online application form.You will be sent an automatic email to show we have received it. At the end of the summer 2017 we will be in touch with all applicants to tell you whether we need further information from you.

Please note there are NO WRONG answers, we select veterans based on what we can offer, for example we can’t have 27 sit skiers… when we have 3 sit skis.

Jamie Unlike some military charities, Supporting Wounded Veterans doesn’t insist that the veterans it helps have been involved in recent conflicts.   Jamie, 46, began his adult life as an engineer in the Fleet Air Arm.   But his military career was brought to an abrupt end when, while preparing to be deployed into a front line squadron for the first Gulf War, he became registered blind. Jamie has rod-cone dystrophy, a rare genetic disorder that causes the loss, first of central vision and gradually the deterioration of colour definition and peripheral sight.  Today he is almost totally blind, but he lives by the mantra: “We are here for a good time, not a long time.” SWV founder Gilly Norton says she invited him to Klosters because “as soon as I met him, I knew he would prove to be an uplifting presence to everyone on the trip.” SWV’s expert team of instructors includes several who are trained to work with the visually impaired.   They equipped Jamie with a microphone and earpiece so that he could communicate with a guide and gave him two buddies who acted as a protective circle around him on the slopes.  Although Jamie had skied before, the support the charity was able to provide took his capabilities to a whole new level. “My vision allows me to see contrast and shadows in bright light, but I have no idea where I am going.  In my ear, I can hear the guide saying, ‘left, left, left, right, right, and I make my turns to their instructions,” he explains.  “When I need to halt, they count me in – three, two, one, stop.’ You have to take a deep breath and place complete trust in your guide but the payback is exhilarating.  I might not be taking in the mountain views, but I’m showing just what is possible.” Jamie, who lives in Nottingham with his wife Katrina, a lawyer, and their two daughters Maddie, ten, and Poppy, seven, had a second career as a tax adviser.    However in 2013 he was forced to stop work because of the increasing severity of his sight loss and he subsequently underwent treatment for stress and anxiety. The SWV gave him a whole new lease of life.  Since returning from Klosters he has joined the Combined Services Disabled Ski Team and is training as an alpine racer with the hope of being a contender at the 2018 Paralympics in South Korea.   “If you said to me now that I could have my eyesight back, I would think twice about that because I wouldn’t be the same person that Supporting Wounded Veterans has enable me to become,” he says.

Jamie, veteran 2014

Dean “I returned not as a changed man, but as a man ready for change.”  Dean “Dino” Hawkins served 24 years with the Corps of Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) before being commissioned into the Royal Artillery as a Captain.   His career took him to the front line of conflicts in Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Sierra Leone and Iraq, where he was confronted by many atrocities.   Back in the UK in 2006, he took on the highly sensitive role of delivering devastating news to the families of those lost or severely injured in action.    As a father of four, with operational experience who had risen through the ranks, Dino was eminently qualified for the task.  Still, he concedes: “Every time you knock on another door, your heart is in your mouth because you know something of the emotional hand grenade that is about to go off.  For those poor families, it is a moment they will never forget.” Dino was a notification officer for four years, during which the number of UK casualties from Afghanistan escalated.  In 2010, he had what he calls his “tsunami moment”.  A seemingly insignificant exchange of words with someone while he was off-duty triggered a full-blown panic attack.   “I had been conditioned to park the trauma I witnessed and move on.   But without warning, the red mist came down,” he says. Dino’s wife Linda insisted he sought medical help and Dino was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic adjustment disorder and depression.   “Mine is that package of the unseen within,” he explains.   “I was signed off for 20 months and fell into a black hole.  I felt angry and bitter at being dropped after all my years of service and the family had to walk on eggshells around me as I became more and more isolated.” Dino was medically discharged in 2012, and “festered” for a further 18 months.   Then Linda found an advert for Supporting Wounded Veterans promising “rehabilitation into re-employment”.  “That was the line she picked up on – the chance for me to rediscover a challenge and a purpose.”  Dino was interviewed and accepted for the 2015 trip to Klosters “and from the moment I looked across at the guys at the airport – I knew our shared banter, black humour and support for each other was going to get us through.  I returned from that week not as a changed man, but as a man ready for change.” Back at home, Dino was paired with a business mentor who acted as an advisor, sounding board and navigator of the jobs market.   Six months later, he had embarked upon his new full-time job as a facilities manager with Tesco.   “Supporting Wounded Veterans isn’t about the quick fix.  Its visionary team offers heartfelt and enduring support to ex-servicemen,” he says.   “Thanks to their efforts, I now have a lifeline and my wife and children have the husband and father that they once feared was lost to them for ever.”

Dino, veteran 2015

Del “I stopped thinking about the negatives and realised I could look forward to the future.” A former staff sergeant with the Royal Signals, Del, 37, suffered a severe brain injury in Afghanistan in 2009 when the vehicle he was driving hit an IED during a battle with a Taliban stronghold. “I was in an open-top reconnaissance truck which had a reinforced base designed to withstand blasts.  But when we hit the IED, I was blown upwards and my head hit an overhead metal bar,” he explains. The impact knocked him unconscious.  He was rescued along with the commander sitting beside him (who was thrown out of the truck and also suffered multiple injuries).  Del woke up in hospital at Camp Bastion and soon afterwards was flown back to the Queen Elizabeth Medical Centre in Birmingham where he learnt he had lost all hearing in his right ear and suffered major bruising to his brain.   His memory recall, coordination and ability to process information were badly affected.  “It was as if I was living in a permanent fog,” he says.  “I became painfully slow at the simplest of tasks and unable to do more than one thing at a time.” At Headley Court, the specialist rehabilitation centre for wounded soldiers, he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.   “It was a vicious circle – I became tired and sleepy a lot of the time, and that made me frustrated and angry.” Del, who lives in Carlisle with his partner Lisa, a teaching assistant, and stepdaughter Hannah, 18, was medically discharged in November 2012.  He had served 19 years, having enlisted as a 16-year-old school leaver.  “I’d always thought I would see out my career in the army, but after my injury, I lost all my confidence and I couldn’t see what I was going to do with my life,” he says. Four months later, he was offered a place on the first Supporting Wounded Veterans trip.   “One of the first things you realise when you are put together with a bunch of wounded veterans is that there is always someone worse off that you.   We bounced off each other, shared problems and I made instant friendships.”  Del had skied before, but still had to overcome anxiety attacks.   By the end of the week, however, he says: “It was as if a line had been drawn in the sand.  I stopped thinking about the negatives and realised I could look forward to the future.” On his return home, Del was paired with a mentor to help him focus on re-employment.  Shortly afterwards, he spotted a vacancy for an assistant in a local fishing and shooting shop.   He applied, and, as a keen fisherman, got the job. He has since returned to Klosters with Supporting Wounded Veterans as a helper.  “I feel like my life has moved on a million miles and it has been great to pass on my experience to the other veterans.”

Del, veteran 2013

Anna’s 12 years’ army service included two tours of Iraq, but she sustained her life-changing injury away from a war zone as a Combined Services candidate for the British bobsleigh team at the Winter Olympics. Anna, a former captain in the Adjutant General Corps, seriously damaged her leg as she sped downhill at 70 mph while training in Latvia in 2005 after her foot hit a small block of ice. “Basically my left leg went left, and the rest of me went straight on,” she says.  She underwent multiple operations and lengthy rehabilitation treatment at Headley Court, all of which failed to prevent her becoming confined to a wheelchair.   By 2009, she found herself poleaxed by a deep depression.   “I was on a cocktail of medication for the pain, struggling to function and feeling as though life was slipping away from me.” Finally, in 2011, Anna had an elective through-the-knee amputation.  “My depression lifted instantly and I realised that what disables me – having only one leg – is also the very thing that enables me.”   Within months, she was not just walking, but skiing on her new prosthetic leg. Anna, 39, was medically discharged from the army in 2012.   The same year, she met her husband Ollie, a car mechanic, and they now live on Exmoor. She took part in the 2014 Ski Week, knowing that on her return, she would have to undergo further surgery because of nerve damage to her leg. “The trip was awesome,” she says. “How can you not smile when you are in the mountains with sunshine and beautiful panoramas?” But even more valuable to Anna than enjoying week’s skiing was the support she received following her return from Klosters.   SWV arranged for her to be mentored through recovery by Jane Durgan, a former solicitor who is also a lifelong amputee not through injury, but because of a congenital condition.  “She completely understands my frustrations, because she has lived with them herself.  And she constantly reminds me that it’s possible to be an amputee and live a full life,” says Anna.  “I don’t need professional support at the moment, but having Jane’s shoulder to lean on has been invaluable.”

Anna, veteran 2014

If you’re anything like me, there are times when I would rather be on my own. This is particularly true when recovery seems an endless struggle and my confidence of ever feeling better wanes. The paradox of such isolation is realising what I actually crave is connection with humanity. My mentor has helped me enormously over the last 18 months, however more recently I’ve discovered how she has helped me keep connected with the SWV/SWH family. Since February I’ve been an in-patient at the Bethlem Royal Hospital having intensive treatment. I’ve come to realise that keeping in touch with my mentor under the banner of SWV/SWH and having a good natter for an hour once a fortnight has kept me very much engaged with her, our ongoing work, but also the wider SWV/SWH family. This connection has allowed me to reflect on the good friends I’ve made, the laughs we’ve all had, and appreciate the support we enjoy from our committee members and fantastic sponsors. I’ve picked up my phone and spoken to some of you and even some of you have visited me (Scotty bought me some grapes). So what I hear you say! Well, all this keeps me connected with the people I value most and helps prevent me reverting to the familiar coping strategy of isolation. SWV/SWH, the mentoring system, and the pain management clinic have made such a positive difference to my recovery. This connection needs commitment on my behalf too and my mentor understands this and encourages me in this direction. So if you are feeling a little too much on the periphery, start by sending a veteran, a buddy or someone else you know a text. Make that connection. It might make you ski faster too.

Martin, veteran 2015

Paul Paul spent nine years as a navy medic attached to the Royal Marines.  His service included tours of Iraq and Afghanistan and in 2007 he was involved in the front line rescue of countless severely wounded servicemen.   “I can see now that the person I was when I came back from that tour was completely different to the person I was before,” he says. Paul, who is divorced and has a 19-year-old son, left the Navy in 2009 and joined the police force in his home county of Gloucestershire.   Outwardly, he appeared to be fine, but inwardly, he was struggling with nightmares, flashbacks, low moods and explosive outbursts. Things came to a head three years ago when Paul was called to a pub fracas while on police duty, and ended up in hospital with spinal and neck injuries after being seriously assaulted.    The attack triggered full-blown post-traumatic stress disorder which therapists have since confirmed relates back to the traumas he witnessed in Afghanistan. Paul came to Supporting Wounded Veterans directly from Tedworth House, a recovery centre in Wiltshire run by Help for Heroes.   He had been off work for six months, was speaking with a severe stammer and could only sleep at night with heavy doses of sleeping tablets. Within two days of being in Klosters, his outlook had been transformed.   “I realised I am not alone and forgotten,” he says.  Paul was already a competent skier, but he had felt isolated by his illness.   “Being with others who could empathise with my experience and seeing how they were coping gave me the inspiration to get my own life back.”  By the end of the week, his stammer had diminished and he felt confident enough to stand before the 70-strong SWV party to give Gilly a public vote of thanks.   Since returning to the UK, he has returned to work part time and taken part in the Invictus Games, winning silver and bronze medals in archery.

Paul, veteran 2014