Where is the Best Adaptive Winter Sports Program?


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
USA TODAY 10Best Travel Expert 

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. 


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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.”

Read the article on USA TODAY 10best

Read Lisa’s articles about the National Ability Center on Sierra Club Magazine and on Ski Utah.

Want to Ski in a Wheelchair?


Lisa Ellen Niver

After exploring 99 countries and sailing for seven years on the high seas, Lisa Niver is ready for more active adventures! Find her We Said Go Travel videos with over 1.25 million views on Roku, Amazon Fire TV and YouTube. Her stories include Dutch designer villas for Luxury Magazine, interviewing Fabien Cousteau for Delta Sky, skiing with the blind for Sierra and WWII for Saturday Evening Post and Smithsonian. She is verified on both Twitter and Facebook and is the Adventure Correspondent for The Jet Set TV. Her latest projects are 50 new things before she is 50 and Facebook Live for USA Today 10best. She has run 13 Travel Writing Awards publishing nearly 2000 writers from 75 countries and this summer is the first We Said Go Travel Photo Competition. She was a winner in the 59th annual 2016 Southern California Journalism Awards for her print column in The Jewish Journal. She was invited to the United Nations as a Champions of Humanity ambassador, to the red carpet at the Oscars with United Airlines and to New Orleans with American Express and Starwood Hotels. She also contributes to USA Today, Wharton Business Magazine, the Jewish Journal and was a 2012 nominee for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching, a 2014 nominee for the Charles Bronfman Prize and a finalist in two categories for the 59th annual Southern California Journalism Awards.

4 responses to “Where is the Best Adaptive Winter Sports Program?

  1. Hi Lisa,

    Skiing or any sport is all about adaptability. Your post is an inspiration and something anyone who feels disheartened or demoralized because of any physical weakness can read if they really want to get motivated. Your post and pictures are giving to hope to many. The pictures of visually impaired person skiing is so inspirational that it should be one of the image picks of 2018.

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