Friday, December 28, 2012

Adaptive Downhill Skiing Basics

Thanks to Chauncey McCarthy for this rundown on one of the most exciting adaptive sports of winter! Thanks to New England Disabled Sports for their photos and thanks to Posie Mansfield for her photo three track skiing! With these contributions I now have a good grasp of the basics of adaptive downhill skiing.

Downhill skiing is a great way you can enjoy the winter outdoors! If you like the exhilaration of speed, open views of mountains and clean crisp air, consider trying out an exciting new adventure on the slopes! It’s a wonderful opportunity to master a new set of skills and enjoy a colorful community of thrill seekers amidst spectacular scenery! With well-developed equipment and instruction, adaptive skiing has a growing presence at many major ski resorts, serving a large range of people (kids included!) with different types of disabilities.
Seated skis are a primary mode as well as the standard image of adaptive skiing. Sit skis work well if you have a spinal cord injury, lack of balance, or inability to stand. Sit skis come mainly in two design styles - the mono ski and bi ski. Sit skiers and adaptive ambulatory skiers use outrigger poles - forearm crutches modified with a ski tip bottom to help maintain balance and initiate turns.

A bi ski is the right choice if you have limited trunk control and some upper body strength. This sit ski has a large bucket seat mounted to two skis directly underneath the seat with limited suspension. Fixed outriggers can be used to increase stability. The instructor can tether into this ski to control the experience of the skier who may be passive or participate to the level of their ability.

A mono ski is a great choice for someone with trunk control and upper body strength. This sit ski has a bucket seat mounted with a suspension system to one ski. It can be self loaded and allows for a complete independent skiing experience once the skier had learned how to fully control the ski. With a lower center of gravity, sitskiers really fly downhill!

If you are ambulatory, adaptive skiing is achieved through three and four track skiing. These terms refer to the number of tracks left in the snow by a skier. Three track skiing is when a skier is using one ski and two outrigger poles, or two skis and one outrigger pole. Four track skiing is when the skier is using two outrigger poles and two skis.

For someone with limited leg strength or balance a device called snow slider can be used. The snow slider is essentially a walker attached to a pair of skis - outriggers can be added to increase stability and a tether can also be used by a support person.

Two track skiing for those who are blind or visually impaired is accomplished with tethers, verbal commands and other methods. A blind skier and sighted guide ski together wearing designated vests so others on the ski slope are aware of their presence. Instructors may use other skiing aids during the lesson to help increase the experience.

Many adaptive ski programs also serve youth and adults with autism and other intellectual disabilities, modifying instructions and stimulating influences to the best of their ability to allow for a more successful learning experience.

Several ski resorts in the New England area offer adaptive downhill skiing. Feel free to contact them if you have more questions and want to give it a try!

New England Disabled Sports offers adaptive skiing lessons at Loon Mountain (Lincoln, NH)
Ability Plus offers adaptive skiing at Mount Snow (West Dover, Vermont) and Attitash (Mount Washington Valley, NH)

New England Handicapped Sports Association runs adaptive skiing at Mount Sunapee, NH

Stride Adaptive Sports provides adaptive skiing lessons at Jiminy Peak Ski Area (Hancock, MA)

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Winter Ski Programs for Vets in New England

Veterans who are looking for some winter fun will find a lot of options this winter in New England! If you are not a veteran there is still useful program information here for anyone interested in winter sports! The New England Veterans Paralympic Regional Development Program announces its Winter 2013 Events and Programs:
Mount Washington Valley, Soldiers For Soldiers, Jan. 12 & 13, Attitash, NH
Winter Wonderland Weekend that includes Alpine skiing, Snowboarding, Nordic skiing, Snowshoeing, Ice Skating, Bonfires and Sleigh Rides. For more information, contact

VA New England Winter Sports Clinic, Jan. 14-18, Mt. Sunapee, NH Skiing, sports massage, Sled Hockey, snowmobiling, air rifle shooting, and more! Contact Ralph Marche for an application and more information.
Military Salute Weekend, Jan. 26 & 27, Attitash, NH
For more information, contact

Bart Center 8th Wounded Military Hero’s Weekend, Jan. 25-27, Bromley Mountain, VT
Skiing, snowboarding, competition and comraderie; lessons and adaptive equipment provided. Visit, call (802) 824-5522 x 430 or email

Leaps of Faith Disabled Skiers’ Adaptive Snow Ski clinics, Mt Southington, CT
Jan. 29, Feb. 26 and March 12. No experience necessary, visit or contact Joel at (203) 426-0666.

Veterans No Boundaries Winter Program, Feb. 1-4, Sunday River Resort, ME
For disabled veterans and active duty military personnel as well as their families, the program includes alpine and Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, biathlon and snowmobiling.
Visit, call (800) 639-7770 or email

6th Annual USABA Winter Festival, Feb. 8-10, Pico Mt., VT
Vermont Adaptive is hosting this festival –for individuals who are visually impaired. To include Downhill, Cross-Country Skiing and Goalball; the participants will choose to either “learn to ski” or “learn to race” in each category. Whether a first-time skier or competitive racer, the festival is catered to each athlete’s ability. Guides and instructors are provided by Vermont Adaptive Ski & Sports, and the event is open to all ages and abilities. Along with learning to ski and cross country ski, the participants will attend a banquet dinner with a keynote speaker, a pizza party, and will be staying the weekend in the Killington, VT region. Contact Tom Alcorn at for details.

Check out the Winter Nordic & Alpine Ski Programs around New England –

Nordic & Biathlon:
AbilityPLUS (VT & NH)
Maine Adaptive Sport & Recreation (VT)
New England Disabled Sports (NH)
New England Nordic Ski Association (Northeast Adaptive Race Series)
Northeast Disabled Athletic Association (VT/Northeast Adaptive Race Series)
Northeast Passage (NH/Northeast Adaptive Race Series)
Pineland Farms (ME)
Vermont Adaptive Ski & Sports (VT)

AbilityPLUS (VT & NH)
Adaptive Sports Partners of the North Country (NH)
Bart Center (VT)
Granite State Adaptive (NH)
Maine Adaptive Sport & Recreation (ME)
New England Disabled Sports (NH)
New England Handicap Sports Association (NH)
Vermont Adaptive Ski & Sports (VT)

Ski Clubs/Trips:
CapeABLE Adventures (MA)
Sports Association at Gaylord Hospital (CT)
Leaps of Faith Disabled Skiers (CT)

Looking for more winter fun? Check out the Cape Cod Curling Club!

The New England Veterans Paralympic Regional Development Program's website for up to date information and events around New England!

Thank you to New England Disabled Sports for photographs!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Year End Appreciations

At year's end I must express my deep appreciation to all the staff and volunteers who make adaptive recreation possible in Massachusetts State Parks. Without skilled outdoor leaders, knowledgeable disability service professionals, and hands-on help from volunteers, our year round programs would simply not be possible.

Peter Chase has volunteered in
Worcester for 2 years and
brings his son to programs.
We operate many of our programs by hiring adaptive recreation organizations to facilitate activities at selected parks that feature accessible locations. Countless volunteers join these organizations to share their skills and expertise and enjoy a fun service opportunity. Many volunteers return year after year. Some are students in physical or occupational therapy, therapeutic recreation, nursing, outdoor leadership and other related or non-related fields. Others are parents or retirees or making time for community service even while employed. All are a huge support we could not do without!

Waves of gratitude to the following organizations and their staff and volunteers: All Out Adventures, Community Boating, Holyoke Rows, Stavros Outdoor Access, Waypoint Adventures and Windrush Farms. Thank you for your ongoing commitment to providing great quality inclusive recreation opportunities!

Heidi Marie-Peterson also
developed a games program.
With the end of our REC Connect grant, we lost our grant coordinator Heidi Marie-Peterson. Heidi worked with us for two years, helping us build our Adaptive Skating and Games on Ice programs in Boston, Worcester, and Revere. She recruited participants and coordinated volunteers in addition to gracing our office and programs with her friendly and easy-going personality, outdoor leadership perspective, equipment support and gentle sense of fun. Even after her position ended, Heidi continues to volunteer at the Holyoke skating program. Thanks Heidi for a job well done! We wish you well in your quest for a new one!

Steve Jewett has assisted on the ice in Revere for 3 years.
Some volunteers work with the Universal Access Program directly, helping us with the programs we run in-house. Three people who provided exceptional volunteer assistance with Adaptive Skating and Games on Ice are Steve Jewett, Peter Chase, and Steve Frieman. Thank you all for your sustained commitment to helping out!

Steve Freiman has helped us
 in Holyoke for 2 years.

We are all feeling the pinch with current challenges to our economy. DCR's Universal Access Program will continue to seek creative ways to keep our programs thriving and support adaptive recreation. Check out our Winter Calendar on the tab at the top of the page! We know it will take continued volunteer support to counteract reduced funding. With deep gratitude we thank those who have assisted us over time and welcome new volunteers to join the fun!
Training for outdoor winter recreation activities will take place on January 5 at Wendell State Forest and January 9 at the D.A.R. State Forest. Contact All Out Adventures at 413-527-8980 for January 5 and Stavros at 413-259-0009 to attend on January 9. Anyone interested in assisting with indoor ice skating can call 413-545-5758 for more information.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Adaptive Snowboarding

Guest Post from Chauncey McCarthy, DCR Universal Access Program's Equipment Specialist. Chauncey is a snowboarder, so I asked him to research adaptive snowboarding so more of us could understand how it works. Thanks Chauncey! Don't miss the inspiring video at the end of his post!

World class adaptive snowboarder Nicole Roundy is training
for the 2014 Winter Paralympic snowboarding team. Follow
her progress at
Snowboarding is a great way to escape from the distractions of life and connect with nature and friends. There is nothing better than the sensation of carving down the slopes on a nice winter day, or surfing the powder after a snowstorm. Even the chairlift ride can be a great time to catch up with old friend or make new ones. The mountain community is a great place to spend time and make memories.

Snowboarding has come a long way since its start in the 1970s. As the sport has progressed so has the equipment and the range of people it can serve. Adaptive snowboarding is now more available and is offered at many ski resorts.

Adaptive snowboarding can serve a wide range of different disabilities but not all - if the person does not have the ability to stand or walk adaptive downhill skiing would be the right alternative. Currently there is not a sit snowboard available for widespread use.


Ski resorts are able to accommodate people with different disabilities by using a wide range of snowboarding adaptations and teaching styles. New snowboarders should plan on using a tradition snowboard setup. Depending on the rider's disability they will be outfitted with different adaptive equipment. Often this includes ski poles or outriggers to help increase balance. Outriggers can also be used for someone with limited muscular control or strength.

Snowboard lesson using Sno-wing.
The Sno-wing is an adaptive training tool that goes over the rider and attaches around their waist. The instructor can then control the ring that is around the rider helping the rider control the board while getting a better feel for the equipment and how to maintain balance.

A rider bar is another adaptation that is available to someone with low balance or a lower extremity disability. This is a bar that is attached to the toe edge of the snowboard creating a place the rider can hold onto while snowboarding. As the snowboarder progresses through the learning period their instructor might also use a tether to help control the board.

Using a rider bar.
If this has spiked your interest in adaptive snowboarding there are many mountains in the New England area that offer this service.

Ability Plus offers adaptive snowboarding at Mount Snow (West Dover, Vermont) and Attitash (Mount Washington Valley, NH)

New England Handicapped Sports Association runs adaptive snowboarding at Mount Sunapee, NH

Stride Adaptive Sports provides adaptive snowboarding lessons at Jiminy Peak Ski Area (Hancock, MA)

New England Disabled Sports offers adaptive snowboarding lesson a Loon Mountain (Lincoln, NH)