Want to ski? These adaptive winter sports programs are ready to help!

No matter what accommodation you need, these ski centers will get you on the slopes

By Lisa Niver,

Growing up, I watched skiers at Park City Mountain glide down the slopes on monoskis and with bright orange bibs that said "visually impaired." I was a terrified and athletically challenged skier as a child and felt inspired by the fact that people who spent their days in wheelchairs, or who couldn't see, could do this sport. If they weren't giving up, I was going to figure it out.

Enter National Ability Center Instructor Patricia Stokes, who explained to me that we all need adaptions to ski. Everyone uses some kind of accommodation as we aren't capable of doing this sport without equipment. Some people need more, or perhaps different, assistance, but at NAC and other winter sports facilities, the instructors will only ask you what you can do.

This year, find out what it feels like to have the wind whoosh through your hair as you sail on skis. There is magic on the mountain.

National Ability Center | Alpine Skiing and Snowboarding

Park City, Utah

Skiing at National Ability Center at Park City, Utah — Photo courtesy of Lisa Niver, We Said Go Travel

At Park City Mountain in Utah, Marketing Manager Whitney Thompson says the team from National Ability Center works "to realign and strengthen people's expectations of what is possible while bringing together voices from around the world into a powerful adaptive community that celebrates all abilities.

"Whether someone is on the autism spectrum, has an amputation or spinal cord injury, a visual impairment, we aim to remove barriers to recreation by providing superior facilities and industry-leading inclusive sport and adventure programming. Our onsite accessible lodging, camps and scholarship programs ensure that these programs are available to individuals and families of all abilities and backgrounds worldwide, including those in need."

Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center | Adaptive Ski and Ride School

Breckenridge, Colo.

National Ability Center Athlete Ravi Drugan — Photo courtesy of Jon Scarlet

Do you want to ski at Breckenridge or Keystone in Colorado? The Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center (BOEC) is ready to take you skiing or snowboarding with one-on-one lessons. They have the latest equipment for alpine, cross-country skiing and snowboarding, and their professional instructors can work with people of all levels from beginners to experts.

National Sports Center for the Disabled

Winter Park, Colo.

Get moving at the National Sports Center for the Disabled — Photo courtesy of National Sports Center for the Disabled

The National Sports Center for the Disabled (NSCD) is one of the largest therapeutic recreation and adaptive sports organizations for people with disabilities in the world. The NSCD pushes the boundaries of what's possible and reaches new heights beyond the limits of physical constraints.

It started in 1970, offering ski lessons to children with amputations from Children’s Hospital. Today, it provides programs for 17 different adaptive activities, serves nearly 3,200 participants each year and gives more than 15,000 lessons for people with disabilities.

"Through therapeutic recreation and adaptive sports, the NSCD helps people discover their potential. We provide opportunities that allow each person living with a disability to become more independent while helping them to improve their quality of life," says  Kim Easton, CEO/President. 

Steamboat Adaptive Recreational Sports (STARS)

Steamboat Springs, Colo.

Ski with a guide at Steamboat Adaptive Recreational Sports — Photo courtesy of Steamboat Adaptive Recreational Sports

Julie Taulman, Executive Director of STARS, states that "locals and guests with disabilities [are provided] an opportunity to experience skiing, Nordic and snowboarding in Steamboat through the help of adaptive equipment and a caring staff. There is no permanent disability that we do not work with. Our staff is specially trained to help each individual reach their potential and learn to be as independent as they can on the mountain.

"Before STARS, families often left loved ones at home because there was not a program to serve them. Now the entire family can reconnect and discover the outdoors through the help of STARS."

Oregon Adaptive Sports

Bend, Ore.

Try out an assortment of winter sports in Oregon — Photo courtesy of Oregon Adaptive Sports

Since 1996, "Oregon Adaptive Sports has been working to empower people of all abilities to fully engage in the outdoors and to live an active, healthy and thriving life," said their Executive Director Pat Addabbo. Look for their Winter Programs in skiing, snowboarding and cross-country at both Mt. Bachelor and Hoodoo Ski Resort.

Jackson Hole Adaptive Mountain Sports School

Jackson Hole, Wyo.

Jackson Hole Steep and Deep — Photo courtesy of Jackson Hole Adaptive Mountain Sports School

Jason Malczyk, Jackson Hole Adaptive Snow Sports Supervisor, explains that "with help from our local non-profit Teton Adaptive Sports, we focus on providing a high-quality mountain experience to people of all skills and abilities.  Together, our goal is to provide the most high quality adaptive instructors and equipment. 

"As the adaptive program supervisor, I strive to have the team be made up of adaptive certified instructors through Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA).  Through experience and knowledge, we love being a part of sharing the awesomeness that is Jackson Hole with everyone."

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New England Disabled Sports

Lincoln, N.H. 

New England Disabled Sports will have you on the slopes in ways you never though possible — Photo courtesy of New England Disabled Sports

Since 1987, New England Disabled Sports (NEDS) in New Hampshire has been "providing sports and recreation opportunities for individuals living with a disability. Through each lesson, our highly trained volunteer coaches increase self-confidence, independence and mobility in our athletes. We strive to continue to break boundaries in the 603!" says Terry MacDonald, Administrative Director.

Achieve Tahoe

Tahoe, Calif.

Achieve Tahoe Winter Military Sports Camp — Photo courtesy of Nicky Lockman

Achieve Tahoe "provides year-round outdoor recreation programs for children, adults and military veterans with physical, sensory and intellectual disabilities. It provides affordable, inclusive physical and recreational activities that build health, confidence and independence," says Haakon Lang-Ree, Executive Director.

Their programs can be found at Alpine Meadows, Squaw Valley and Northstar resorts in Tahoe.

Maine Adaptive Sports & Recreation

Programs can be found at several locations in Maine

Those age 4 and up can join on the fun at Maine Adaptive Sports & Recreation — Photo courtesy of Maine Adaptive Sports & Recreation

"Maine Adaptive loves to share all of the best outdoor activities that Maine has to offer with anyone, 4 and older, with disabilities. From alpine and Nordic skiing in the winter, to paddling and cycling in the summer, Maine Adaptive welcomes residents and visitors to its free year-round recreational programs, offered across the state," says Executive Director Barbara Schneider.

Adaptive Sports Program New Mexico

Santa Fe, N.M.

Art and Jason sail down the mountain — Photo courtesy of Adaptive Sports Program New Mexico

Jason Cline, Director of Operations at the Adaptive Sports Program of New Mexico (ASPNM), states "we recognize that a day on the slopes, rivers, lakes or rock walls can not only enhance an individual's life, but transform it completely.  We offer year-round opportunities for children and adults with disabilities to enjoy a variety of adaptive activities including skiing, snowboarding, watersports, yoga, cycling, rock climbing and more. 

"Beyond the physical health benefits afforded by ASPNM’s programs, many of our participating athletes report an increased sense of empowerment, self-confidence and independence that permeates into their lives outside of ASPNM. Through ASPNM, our athletes develop a large circle of support that includes our committed volunteers, other participants and their families, and the other agencies with whom ASPNM partners. 

"We are proud to give our athletes with disabilities the opportunity to be active, have fun and challenge themselves beyond what they may have thought possible!"