By Kerri Loudoun, Communications and Marketing Portfolio Leader (kerri.loudoun@skipatrol.ca)

Have you ever seen a blind snowboarder on the hill? Maybe you’ve seen a sit ski load the chairlift. Adaptive alpine skiers and snowboarders are frequenting many of the CSP’s partner resorts across Canada. This article will explain some aspects of this community and help keep them safe.

Canadian Adaptive Snowsports (CADS)

This organization was founded in 1976 by Jerry Johnson, the ski school director at Sunshine Village, outside of Banff, Alberta. He and volunteers worked hard to develop teaching methods and adaptive equipment to find a practical approach to ensure differently-abled individuals could enjoy snow sports in Canada.

With a network of programs across Canada, more than 2,100 participants living with impairments – from physical, visual, cognitive and autism spectrum disorders – are gaining the skills to be active for life by sliding on snow.

Programs focus on fun, inclusion and respect. This volunteer-run organization boasts 1,600 certified instructors (in alpine skiing and snowboarding), as well as 1,500 volunteers, offering comprehensive instruction.

Unique physical skills, same safety needs   

 Many adaptive programs incorporate unique tools and equipment to ensure participants can experience the thrill of sliding on snow. For example, athletes use various iterations of the sit ski. You’ll also see guides who ski or snowboard with blind skiers or students wearing harnesses and attached to instructors by tethers to help control speed.

This equipment is very costly and often owned by the adaptive ski program/club versus the athlete. While sturdy, patrollers must always use care when handling any form of adaptive equipment. 

(photo by Dan Elliot)

Dan Elliot, our national manager of on snow training who is also CAD-certified course conductor and the president of London Track 3 (an adaptive snow sports program out of Boler Mountain in London Ontario), explains, 

“The 2021 on patrol manual has a new section on adaptive snow sports. Adaptive programs are growing in popularity across our country. As a result, it’s more and more common to see adaptive athletes out on our slopes. As patrollers, we must be aware of their unique equipment and needs”.

Tips on assisting injured adaptive snow sport participants

Things to remember if you respond to a call involving an adaptive athlete:

  1. Always ask permission to touch their adaptive equipment and ensure an instructor can help you manipulate and transport it.
  2. When assessing the patient, ask their instructor if their response is typical or altered (where appropriate).
  3. Some participants are non-communicative or only communicate with their instructor directly – you may have to assess with the help of their instructor/coach.

Have you had experience treating an adaptive athlete while patrolling? You may get that opportunity sooner than you think. If you see an adaptive athlete on the slopes, take the opportunity to ask them about their equipment. Becoming familiar with their equipment may be of use to you in the future.

To learn more about adaptive snow sports programs, check out these resources:

Canadian Adaptive Snowsports

2022 Ski and Snowboard Festival

Adapting to make snow sliding accessible to everyone

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