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Adaptive Skiing: News & Information

  • Synopsis: Adaptive skiing is a therapeutic experience between individuals with disabilities who enjoy adventure.

Definition: Defining the Meaning of Adaptive Skiing

Adaptive skiing uses special adapted equipment to allow people with a wide range of disabilities to take to the snow and experience the freedom of snow sports in the least restrictive manner possible. Winter sports such as adaptive snow skiing, snowboarding, and a variety of sit-ski options are now available to many people with disabilities.

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What is Adaptive Skiing

Adaptive skiing enables skiers with disabilities to participate in alpine skiing by using special equipment. Adaptive skiing lesson programs are available at many ski resorts for children and adults with a wide range of disabilities.

The first adaptive ski programs were started for disabled veterans after World War II. They have expanded to include special needs skiers of all ages and abilities. Ski areas on public lands are required to accommodate skiers with disabilities.

Adaptive skiing is a caring, therapeutic experience between individuals with disabilities who enjoy adventure. Adaptive skiing is one of many sports enjoyed by people with disabilities.

Equipment that people with disabilities use may be different, but individuals with spinal cord injuries, brain injuries, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, visual and hearing impairments, post polio syndrome, and a wide variety of other disabilities go to the slopes to enjoy adaptive skiing each year.

With the increase in adaptive ski programs throughout the country, and the advances in equipment, adaptive skiing is fast becoming one of the most popular sports.

Through a combination of specialized equipment and training, people who might otherwise be left behind when friends and family take to the slopes can now join in the fun by using special rail-like devices, ski-bottomed crutches and tethers to take part in what is known as adaptive skiing.

In adaptive skiing, there are six different disciplines:

Skiers range of disabilities include blindness, deafness, amputations, para and quadriplegia, autism, and other forms of injury, illness and cognitive defects that prevent people from skiing in the more traditional ways.

Much attention has been focused on adaptive skiing recently. This is mainly due to exposure relating to the Wounded Warrior Project which, through a partnership between Disabled Sports USA, provides year round sports programs.

Adaptations for disabled skiers:

Guides for blind skiers

The guides are considered "equipment" and there are generally no extra charges for them.

Bi-skis

These are for people with significant lower extremity or trunk weaknesses and for others with difficulty standing and balancing. It's a sit-down ski that lets even those with severe balance impairment experience the thrill of skiing.

Two-track skis and snowboards

These are for any skier who stands on two skis but who might need tethers to aid in leg strength. These are good for people with visual and hearing impairment and for those with developmental and cognitive disabilities.

Three and four-track

These are for skiers who can stand on skis but need additional support to remain balanced. They are best for students with leg amputation, cerebral palsy, arthritis, spina bifida or a traumatic brain injury.

Ski Bike

The latest piece of adaptive skiing equipment is similar to a bicycle with skis instead of wheels, the ski bike has been used in Europe and now adaptive programs have recently discovered that it can be an ideal way for many people with disabilities to enjoy skiing. Since the ski bike takes the majority of a person's weight off of the legs and feet, it can fill a frustrating void between stand-up and sit-down snow skiing.

Paralympic alpine skiing is an adaptation of alpine skiing for athletes with a disability.

Paralympic alpine skiing is one of the sports in the Paralympic Winter Games. It is governed by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) under the auspices of the International Ski Federation (FIS).

In addition to the Paralympic Games, elite disabled ski racing includes the Disabled World Alpine Skiing Championships (held every four years from 1980 to 2004 and every two years beginning in 2009) and the IPC Disabled Alpine World Cup, an annual international racing circuit. Disabled ski racers compete in three different medal categories: standing, sitting, and visually impaired. Each of these groups is divided into three to seven classes, some of which are further subdivided into two or three sub-classes.

Using the best adaptive equipment and teaching techniques available, private one-on-one instruction in adaptive skiing and snowboarding maximizes each participant's potential for success. Mono-skis, bi-skis and outriggers allow beginners to quickly feel the freedom of gliding down the mountain while those with more skill and determination take on the advanced slopes.

Quick Facts: Adaptive Skiing History

Skiing as a sport for people with disabilities traces its origins back to the Second World War, which produced large numbers of wounded soldiers. In Germany, Franz Wendel, an amputee who had lost a leg, successfully attached a pair of crutches to short skis. Sepp "Peppi" Zwicknagel, an Austrian veteran who had lost both his legs to a hand grenade, taught himself to ski and eventually became a ski instructor at Kitzbuhel, founded a division of the Austrian Ski Association for handicapped skiers.

For a long time, disability skiing was restricted to amputees, but in 1969, blind skier Jean Eymore, a former ski instructor before he lost his eyesight, began a skiing program in Aspen, Colorado for blind skiers. The first international competition, the World Disabled Alpine Championships, was held in France in 1974

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