Field Trip: National Sports Center for the Disabled

Last week, NARIC team member Jess Chaiken had the opportunity to visit the National Sports Center for the Disabled (NSCD) in Winter Park, Colorado. “I went to Winter Park to try skiing for the first time. I headed out to my all-day lesson and saw NSCD right in the middle of the complex! I stuck my head in, introduced myself, and got a tour of the facilities.”

NSCD started in 1970, providing ski lessons to children with amputations from Children’s Hospital of Denver. Today, staff and volunteers teach a variety of year-round outdoor sports to more than 3,000 children and adults with disabilities every year. “You should see their workshop,” said Jess. “The staff showed me how they build, adapt, or repurpose sports equipment in their adaptive equipment lab. Snowboards, sit skis, ski ‘walkers’, sleds. So much stuff!”

Jess also had an opportunity to chat with a couple of the volunteers. Both were veteran skiers who had worked at the center for many years. They said they taught all levels and all disabilities, from children with intellectual and developmental disabilities to veterans with limb loss. “They both told me they really enjoyed getting out on the slopes and sharing their love of skiing with as many people as possible.”

“The coolest part was seeing both skilled and emerging adapted athletes out on the trails: a blind ski blind skier speeding (and I mean speeding) down an intermediate trail with their guide, a new skier learning to use a walker frame with skis on it, and skiers with Down syndrome perfecting their turns in the big alpine meadow. As a newby skier, I was focusing on staying upright and not hitting a tree. I can only hope to be as confident as they were!”

NSCD started with winter sports, but they now offer everything from climbing to biking to horseback riding. They also have a competition center, training Paralympic athletes in winter sports. This week they will host the Wells Fargo Cup which includes the World Disabled Invitational, bringing athletes with disabilities from around the world to compete at Winter Park.

“I can’t thank the staff and volunteers at NSCD for welcoming me to their center. I’m just sorry I’m missing the invitational!”

Find out more about NSCD at http://www.nscd.org

Find out more about adaptive winter and summer sports at the National Center on Physical Activity and Disability at  http://www.nchpad.org/

Watch these How to Sit Ski videos from the NIDILRR-funded Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Secondary Conditions in Spinal Cord Injury: http://sci-health.org/how-to-ski/

AbleData is an excellent source for both commercial and do-it-yourself adaptive sports equipment. Here’s a quick search for some snow-ready equipment.

Curious about research in this area? Check out abstracts from our REHABDATA database on skiing, skating, snowboarding, sledding, and other winter sports, from the NIDILRR community and elsewhere.

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