Now that winter is in full swing, the information specialists at NARIC decided to take a look at extreme winter sports and the people with disabilities who enjoy them. Some of the sports that we looked at were not so extreme (such as skiing), but others were very extreme (such as snowmobiling and the luge). Please read on, but do not try this at home!
On the Slopes
People with disabilities are hitting the slopes and participating in winter sports in increasing numbers, including skiing, hockey, and snowmobiling. Amputees, people with visual disabilities, and people with paralysis can all learn to ski. There are several types of adaptive skiing, including mono skiers (individual skiers sitting or standing on a single ski) and bi-skiers (who have two skis under their bucket and have someone standing behind them). At the age of 60, Neal Williams, a Vietnam veteran whose back was crushed in seven places, was a volunteer at the 2002 Paralympics and was encouraged by members of the US Ski Team to give adaptive skiing a try. By 2008, Williams was skiing for seven hours a day and says that skiing has given him a “new lease on life”. The US Disabled Ski Team (USDST) is filled with very competitive men and women! Disaboom introduces you to the USDST Alpine Racers.
For more thrills, some athletes opt for snowmobiling. The main snowmobile event at the X Games is called the SnoCross and involves multiple competitors racing through a course of slopes and turns. Adaptive SnoCross, with vehicles and equipment modified for competitors with disabilities, will make it’s first appearance in the Winter X Games 14. Adaptive SnoCross willl be the third X Games competition designed for action sports athletes with disabilities.
Here is a photo gallery that showcases adaptive skiing.
On the Ice
If you prefer team sports, check out sled hockey, also known as sledge hockey. Sled hockey is played in three, 15 minute periods and has the majority of the same rules as professional hockey. This is a full contact sport with plenty of offsides, power plays, and icing. The equipment worn by players with disabilities is similar to that worn by professional players with the exception of the two metal hockey sticks which are used to direct the puck and to propel the player on the ice. To learn more visit the Northeast Sled Hockey League. This video from the US Paralympic Sled Hockey Team introduces you to the sport and its major players.
There are plenty of opportunities for people with disabilities to get out and enjoy the season. To learn more about winter sports for people with disabilities (and to meet more athletes), please visit the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation. You will be introduced to several athletes and they include a video on how skiing has affected some skiers with disabilities. To find adaptive ski programs, Adaptive Ski programs that have been expanded to include other sports, or additional winter sporting opportunities in your area, please visit Access-able’s site.