Skiing for Disabled: How to do Snow Skiing for the Physically Disabled

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The sport of snow skiing by physically impaired people, which began in Europe in 1935 and gained popularity in the United States in the 1940s, is examined in terms of possibilities, training, adapted equipment required, and advantages delivered. People with impairments ranging from cerebral palsy through multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury, hemiplegia, amputation, blindness, and muscular dystrophy can participate.

As a result, various adapted equipment, such as outrigger skis, flip-skis, canting wedges, ski bras, “toe spreaders,” sit-skis, and mono-skis, is available to allow safe participation in the sport. Programs for impaired skier training are growing in quantity and popularity, and there are various possibilities to compete in tournaments sponsored by National Handicapped Sports.

Both players and instructors discuss the various physical and psychological benefits of skiing; the activity delivers virtually universal enjoyment of a sense of freedom and independence. Snow skiing is a fun, productive outdoor cold-weather activity that the challenged population may do safely with sufficient guidance.

What is adaptive skiing?

Adaptive skiing makes use of specially modified equipment to allow persons with a wide range of impairments to enjoy the freedom of snow sports in the least restrictive way possible. Many persons with disabilities can now participate in winter activities such as adapted snow skiing, snowboarding, and a range of sit-ski choices.

 adaptive skiing

The first adapted ski programs for injured soldiers were established following the second world war. Since then, they’ve grown to accommodate special needs skiers of all ages and abilities. Ski areas on public lands are now obligated to accommodate disabled skiers.

Recently, there has already been a lot of focus on adapted skiing. This is partly due to involvement with the Wounded Warrior Project, which provides year-round sporting programs through a partnership with Disabled Sports USA. Adaptive skiing is one of several sportspeople with disabilities and is a loving, therapeutic encounter amongst those with disabilities who appreciate the adventure.

People with disabilities may need different equipment, but every year, people with spinal cord injuries, brain traumas, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, visual and hearing impairments, post-polio syndrome, and various other disabilities visit the slopes to enjoy adapted skiing.

People who would ordinarily be left behind when friends and family hit the slopes can now join in the fun by utilizing unique rail-like devices, ski-bottomed crutches, and ropes, thanks to a mix of specialized equipment and training.

Adapted skiing is quickly becoming one of the most popular sports, thanks to increased adaptive ski programs around the country and advancements in equipment. Many ski resorts provide adaptive skiing lesson programs for children and people with various impairments.

In adaptive skiing, there are six different disciplines:

  • bi-ski,
  • 3-track
  • 4-track.
  • mono-ski,
  • Developmental,
  • visually impaired

Vision loss, deafness, amputations, para and quadriplegia, autism, and other types of disability, disease, and cognitive flaws that limit individuals from skiing in traditional ways are among the difficulties that skiers face.

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Adaptations Designed for Disabled Skiers:

Guides for Blind Skiers: The principles consider “equipment,” therefore, there are usually no additional fees.

Bi-skis is designed for persons with substantial lower extremity or trunk weakness and difficulties standing and balancing. It’s a sit-down ski that allows even individuals with severe balance issues to enjoy the excitement of skiing.

Bi-skis for disabled

Two-track skis and snowboards are for any skier who stands on two skis but may require tethers to help with leg strength. These are beneficial to persons who have vision and hearing impairments and those who have developmental and cognitive challenges.

Three and four-track: These are for advanced skiers who can balance their skis but need extra help staying balanced. They are ideal for kids who have had a limb amputated, cerebral palsy, arthritis, spina bifida, or suffered a catastrophic brain injury.

Ski Bike: Similar to a bicycle but with skis instead of wheels, the ski bike has been utilized in Europe, and adaptive programs have lately discovered that it can be a perfect solution for many individuals with disabilities to enjoy skiing. Because the ski cycle shifts the bulk of a person’s weight away from the legs and feet, it can bridge the gap between stand-up and sit-down snow skiing.

Ski Bike

Paralympic alpine skiing is a kind of alpine skiing designed for skiers with disabilities. Alpine skiing is one of the sports featured in the Paralympic Winter Games. The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) governs it under the aegis of the International Ski Federation (FIS). 

Aside from the Paralympic Games, competitive disability ski racing comprises the Disabled World Alpine Skiing Championships (hosted every four years from 1980 to 2004 and every two years since 2009) and the IPC Disabled Alpine World Cup, a yearly international racing circuit. Ski racers with disabilities participate in three medal categories: standing, seated, and visually impaired. Each category is split into three to seven classes, including two or three sub-classes.

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History of Adaptive Skiing

Skiing as a sport for individuals with disabilities dates back to the Second World War, resulting in many injured troops. In Germany, an amputee who had lost a leg, Franz Wendel, successfully fitted crutches to small skis. Sepp “Peppi” Zwicknagel, an Austrian soldier who lost both legs to a hand grenade, taught himself to ski and eventually became a ski teacher in Kitzbuhel, where he formed a disabled ski section of the Austrian Ski Association.

For a long time, disability skiing was limited to amputees. Still, in 1969, blind skier Jean Elmore, a former ski instructor before losing his eyesight, started a skiing program for blind skiers in Aspen, Colorado. The World Disabled Alpine Championships, the inaugural international tournament, were held in France in 1974.

Sit ski, mono ski, and more: Skiing for the handicapped is possible

The invention of equipment for use on snow and ice, such as the sit-ski and mono ski, allows wheelchair users and other disabled individuals to fly down slopes at high speeds.

Sit skis and mono-skis

Sit skis are skis with a molded bucket seat hung above them in which the user may set. A shock absorber is located beneath the seat, making the ride more pleasant for the rider, and the seat is secured to the ski by a solid metal frame. The skier may control the pace and motion of the skis they are traveling on by using upper body motions and outrigger skis (gadgets similar to crutches with a ski connected to the base) attached to their hands. Sit skis were designed in the 1960s for persons who use wheelchairs or have other mobility issues like paraplegia, and they were individually constructed for each person who did the skiing. However, these rigs were heavy and unwieldy, preventing them from being used on certain types of ski slopes.

Skiing for Disabled
Skiing for Disabled

However, technology progressed, and by the 1980s, sit skis were getting more sophisticated. Modern sit skis are even lighter and may utilize in a broader variety of slopes. They are more lightweight – in the past, sit skis were constructed of fiberglass, and many skiers found it impossible to operate the sit-ski without the aid of another person.

Mono skis are the skis that use in a sit-ski setup. Depending on the skier’s handicap, several varieties are available, such as paralysis or lower limb amputation. A seat is spring-attached to the mono ski, and the skier sits in it while wearing a seatbelt for safety.

Other sit skis feature non-disabled skiers flying across the ice while skiing upright and maneuvering a sitting disabled person in front of them.

A brief story of sit skier Josh Dueck

Before being injured, Canadian Josh Dueck was a skier, but a spinal cord injury in a skiing accident in 2004 left him paralyzed below the waist. Determined to stay in the sport, he researched impaired skiing possibilities and discovered the sit-ski technology he currently employs globally.

Dueck is well known for performing the first-ever backflip on a sit-ski. He has participated in sit-ski contests all around the globe, including the Winter Paralympic Games in Sochi.

One of the challenges he’s faced is that various sit skis are better for different skiing disciplines: some are great for rapidity, such as slalom competitions, while others are better for stability.  He has been working with Canada’s Paralympic ski team to build a sit-ski, a superb performer in all the categories necessary for Paralympic racing. His show skills are like the iconic backflip! They are also looking at the seat and suspension design, with each alteration targeted at boosting safety, stability, speed, or performance.

Best ski resorts for people with disabilities

David Fennings teaches both non-disabled and disabled skiers and snowboarders. David, who has worked at several ski resorts, provides us with his list of the best ski destinations for impaired skiers. Spring has arrived in the UK, and with it, the return of the sun. However, there is still plenty of time to ski in the northern hemisphere mountains.

So, here are some of the top ski resorts for disabled skiers.

Whistler ski resorts : Skiing for Disabled

Whistler is the best resort. It is just an hour from Vancouver and hosted the Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2010. There are generally stunning vistas and plenty of white powder for us to enjoy. Whistler’s adapted ski program is fantastic. The town is accessible, with hotels, restaurants, and shopping designed for those with disabilities. Many of our excursions outside the resort are day trips, but when we intend to stay overnight, we consult the Whistler website to ensure that we have the best time possible.

Whistler ski resorts
Whistler ski resorts

Whistler Mountain is more accessible than Blackcomb Mountain, with a broader range of alternatives available in the village and on the mountain. The adaptive skiing and snowboarding program is excellent. The classes are prepared mainly for autistic tourists. With stand-up skis, sit skis, accessible snowboards, and support for the visually and hearing challenged, the program also caters to developmental, cognitive, and physical impairments. Whistler’s caring and giving employees, and volunteers believe that all guests have the right to experience the beauty and advantages of winter recreation in our exceptional natural resource.

Winter Park Ski Resort for Disabled: 

Winter Park is one of the country’s largest and oldest impaired ski programs, dating back more than 30 years. It is home to the National Sports Centre for the Disabled and offers the best-adapted program in the United States and the globe. These resorts are well-equipped and straightforward to utilize. There is a vast, accessible parking area, and the sports center is accessible to those with a wide range of impairments. They also provide several individual and group lessons for families and friends, with a range of setup options. 

Winter Park Resorts for Disabled
Winter Park Resorts for Disabled

La Plagne Resorts:

Instructors and staff at La Plagne are trained to assist people with physical disabilities and those with vision impairments, balance issues, mental illness, or other obstacles that may necessitate assistance to guarantee safety and pleasure.

Aime 2000, a ski slope, is part of the resort and easily accessible to wheelchair users and others with mobility challenges. The resort has taken the opportunity to offer enough parking and easy access to all businesses and eateries. The ski slopes are accessible through hand ski-friendly gondolas, chairlifts, and drag lifts, making the journey up the mountain pleasurable and straightforward.