Skiing has long been a beloved sporting activity for many, and its popularity has driven a rise in what’s known as adaptive skiing.
Fundamentally, the concept of a hybrid structure of ski poles and crutches with small skis at the bottom to add support has remained the same since it was first explored to rehabilitate injured soldiers – though obviously design has progressed – enabling adaptive skiing for more and more people to enjoy the sport.
Mark Kelvin of Disability Sport UK says,
“There’s an ever-increasing global demand for adaptive snow sports. It’s incredible how much has changed since the 2012 Olympics alone, from attitudes towards what’s possible to advances in assistive technology and improvements to resort accommodation and assistance. It’s possible for disabled skiers and snowboarders to travel independently with confidence.”
What’s more, adaptive-trained ski instructors work in most ski-schools worldwide and the ski resorts themselves have increased the availability of specialised training and equipment, making the mountains more accessible and inclusive.
Modern sit-skis (comprising of a moulded seat attached to one or two skis) incorporate features such as chairlift load assists, suspension systems, chairlift load assists, and adjustable seating, while outriggers – a combination of crutches and ski poles with small skis on the end – give balance support. Tethered skiing enables a visually impaired skier to be tethered to the instructor with support which is gradually withdrawn as confidence increases. A vertiski enables the user to ski upright, and various systems such as ski-pal, hula hoop or horse ‘n’ buggy can support the rider’s weight either with an instructor or independently.
When it comes to snowboarding, sit-snowboarding is different from sit-skiing as a bench-type seat is attached to the snowboard enabling the rider to take a sideways position. Ski-poles are used to stabilise riders for pole snowboarding, and tandem snowboarding is similar to tethered skiing – but using a snowboard.
Specialist companies have been offering adaptive snow sports to travellers for years, but increasingly, mainstream operators are offering bespoke trips to resorts with accessible accommodation to make the sport accessible for people with injuries, disabilities, or other mobility challenges.
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