Adaptive Winter Sports

What is Adaptive?

Adaptive is all about meeting the needs of an individual with disabilities through specialized equipment or teaching methods.

Why Adaptive Winter Sports?

aDSC 0011First, it is fun! Skiing and snowboarding let us experience the freedom of gliding down a mountain.·According to the National Sports Center for the Disabled (NSCD), adaptive sports also allow family members and friends to actively participate together and to share the experience. Children and adults with disabilities also can grow socially by interacting with people in an environment where differences are accepted and welcome.

Some participants also experience physical improvements like increased balance, strength and flexibility. And, the mental processing required making travel arrangements, lesson reservations and preparations for outdoor activities, combined with learning during lessons, contribute to cognitive growth. These are some of the reasons hospitals, mental health agencies, schools, adult day care centers, families and other organizations regularly participate in our programs

Disabilities Served Include (but not limited to):

ADD, Amputation, Arthritis, Autism, Behavioral Health, Bone Disorder, Brain Injury, Cerebral Palsy, Deafness, Developmental Disabilities, Diabetes, Down Syndrome, Epilepsy, Fragile X, Hemophilia, Learning Disabilities, Little People, Multiple Sclerosis, Muscular Disorder, Muscular Dystrophy, Nerve Disorders, Neurological Disorders, Paraplegia, Post-Polio, Quadriplegia, Respiratory Disorder, Spina Bifida, Spinal Cord Injury, Stroke, Substance Abuse, Vision Loss/Blindness

Alpine Skiing

Alpine skiing has long been a familiar mountain activity. The beauty of alpine skiing for people with special needs is its therapeutic value and adaptability. Think of the freedom allowed by a gravity driven sport with equipment designed to smoothly slide over the snow, or the social integration that occurs when joining classes or groups of individuals in a popular activity. The physical, cognitive, and emotional growth that happens when children and adults with special needs engage in alpine skiing is unique.

Some choose to stand ski for part of the day and sit ski for the remainder to develop strength, balance, and endurance needs. Sit down or stand up skiing devices are compatible with the chairlifts and surface lifts at the ski area.


Good news for beginners: in this sport, it's cool to be seen sitting in the snow. Instruction is available to most students who are able to stand, and students don't need independent leg action because both feet are attached to the board. Adaptations can include moving the binding placements on the board or using outriggers to help with balance. Riders include people with spina bifida, blindness or low vision, deaf or hard of hearing, amputation, brain injury and developmental disabilities. Like Alpine skiers, snowboarders see ·improvements in leg and trunk strength as well as enhanced balance.

Nordic Skiing

Cross-country skiing can be low or high aerobic exercise, both for stand-up and sit-down skiers. Those choosing to go the high aerobic route, like hand cyclists and wheelchair racers, use a cross-country sit-ski during the winter to stay in shape year-round. Sit-skiers rely on arm movement to propel their skis, and equipment makers are now developing new sit-skis that add kick to each push and more glide from each arm movement. Standing skiers use long, skis with bindings and boots that attach your toes, but not heels, to the ski. Cross-country skiers exercise muscle groups in their arms, backs and abdominals (plus legs for standing skiers). Since cross-country skiing simulates the movements of walking it is an exceptional therapeutic tool for those who are looking to improve leg strength, balance and gait. From games on skis to a lively pursuit race across the undulating trails of the forest cross-country skiing offers fun for everyone.


Snowshoeing is another sport that can get you into forested areas of the mountains -- or through the soccer field across the street after a good snow. This activity can more aerobic than walking because your snowshoes sink slightly into the powder with each step. Snowshoers need to be able to walk with independent leg action, but using poles or a walker with skis mounted on the legs can help with balance and add to upper body strength. An excellent workout for your hip flexors! Because you sink slightly into the snow, this is an aerobic activity that also can help improve your balance. Balance, leg strength, cognitive processing and increased spatial awareness are other benefits of snowshoeing.

Equipment & Techniques

Individuals use one ski and two outriggers, which are forearm crutches with ski tips mounted to the bases. Primarily used by people who have one stronger leg. Candidates for three-track skiing might include people with leg amputations, post-polio or trauma that affects primarily one leg.


Individuals use two skis and outriggers or slider which is a walker type device mounted upon skis. A metal "ski bra" or a bungee cord between skis often gives more control to feet and legs. Outriggers and sliders help people who lack lateral control of their legs; use crutches, canes, etc.; fall forward, walk on toes or lean heavily on crutches or walker; or have a pronounced backward lean. Candidates for four-track skiing might include people with cerebral palsy, polio survivors, spina bifida, arthrogryposis, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, congenital disabilities or traumatic injury.

Individuals ski in a rigid seat mounted upon two asymmetrically cut skis. Some students use hand-held outriggers, while others ski with fixed outriggers attached to the bi-ski. This equipment provides greater stability than a mono-ski and is used by people who use wheelchairs or 4_trackambulate with difficulty using crutches, canes or walkers. Candidates for bi-skiing might include people with cerebral palsy, brain injuries, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, spina bifida, spinal cord injury, and multiple amputations.

Individuals sit in a molded seat that is mounted to a single ski and use hand-held outriggers. The mono-ski is the most difficult sit-down equipment to use because it requires the greatest balance and strength. It is designed for people with diagnoses such as double amputations and spinal cord injuries, spina bifida, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy and cerebral palsy. Home page


Winter - NSCD

The NSCD offers a variety of exciting winter adventures, including alpine skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing, Nordic hut trips, snowshoeing, and ski racing. Our programs are designed for individuals, families and groups and are available for all levels of ability, from beginner to advanced. We look forward to seeing you or your group this season.


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