Adaptive Snow Sports for People with Physical Disabilities

Adaptive snow sports offer people with disabilities the opportunity to get involved and practice sports in a way that is as restrictive as possible. A variety of options are available, including snowboarding, ice sledge hockey, cross country skiing, and adaptive snow skiing to enable persons with disabilities to enjoy winter recreational opportunities and the outdoors.

Alpine Skiing

Alpine or para-alpine skiing is an adaptation for persons with physical impairments and includes three sub-disciplines – sitting, blind, and standing. Sit-down skiing involves equipment such as cut-down poles, outrigger skis, and prostheses designed for wheelchair users. Competitors with visual impairments use guides that have an IPCAS License and navigate them through radio or voice commands. The main disciplines for people with disabilities include super combined, slalom, giant slalom, super-G, and downhill.

Cross Country Skiing

This sport is popular in Alaska, Canada, and Northern Europe and is gaining following in Australia and the United States. Persons with disabilities benefit from balance development and aerobic exercise using techniques like telemark, biathlon, ski jumping, and skate cross country skiing. Athletes across disciplines also practice cross country skiing to increase their fitness, including sledge hockey players and hand-cyclists.

Ice Sledge Hockey

Sledge hockey is an intense and highly physical sport for female and male athletes with disabilities. Governed by the International Paralympic Committee, it is a popular sport in countries like Great Britain, the U.S., Canada, Norway, and Sweden. Players use special equipment such as sticks with fiberglass, elbow, shin, and shoulder pads, padded gloves, and helmets with full-face screens.

Adaptive Snowboarding

This is an equivalent of snowboarding with modifications in terms of specifications, procedures, and equipment. Both competitive and recreational versions are available. The two classes are SB-UL and SB-LL, the latter of which for persons with impairments in one or both legs. The second category, SB-UL is for people with disabilities affecting one or both arms. In general, adaptive snowboarding is designed for female and male athletes with visual impairments, amputation, cerebral palsy, spinal injury, and other disabilities. The choice of a snowboard depends on skill and ability level and the athlete’s weight and height. The three types that riders use are alpine and race, free-riding, and freestyle boards.

The Canadian Adaptive Snowboard Program offered by the Canadian Snowboard Federation features training opportunities for coaches, competitions, and athlete development camps. Read more @ and here.

Canadian Adaptive Sports

A national non-profit, volunteer-based organization, CADS offers support to persons with cognitive, visual, and physical impairments and the opportunity to participate in snow sports lessons. Participants benefit from detailed training and education, physical literacy, and needs specific training. CADS also strives to encourage leadership, volunteerism, and community involvement and ensure that adaptive equipment is widely accessible. There is a wealth of resources for athletes and professionals, including snowboard workbooks, slideshow presentations, study guides, instructor manuals, and CADS information packages. The organization also offers bursaries to member clubs up to $250 a year per club. Applicants are asked to provide information such as division, name, eligible amount requested, and whether they have a Return to Snow Plan. They should also indicate their project’s area, for example, sustainable business operations, development, or education.