Disabled skiers organizations get disabled people back on the slopes and
into the sport they love. They provide support, education, and companionship
for people with a disability who want to learn, teach or compete in the sport
There are a wide variety of associations and national organizations dedicated
to disabled skiing, including Disabled Sports USA. Between 9,000 and 14,000
people -- both able-bodied and disabled -- are registered with or participating
in disabled skiing associations in the United States.
These organizations depend heavily on volunteers to keep them going. Volunteers
may teach people how to ski, fundraise, organize ski trips, handle public
relations, or just help out. They meet lots of new people, get to ski, and
really make a difference in other people's quality of life.
The recent growth and recognition of disabled sports has led to an upswing
in the number of disabled skiers -- and a corresponding increase in the need
Matthew Hirst got involved as a volunteer a year ago. "A lot of what I
do is organization -- set up trips, allocate equipment, and other administrative
stuff. Some people teach or help out with transport or events, other people
canvass for sponsors. Right now what we need most are people to do what I'm
doing -- take care of organizing and implementing activities and stuff."
Matthew Hirst became a volunteer when a disabled friend decided to learn
to ski. "My friend had skied for several years before she was in a car accident
and lost one leg below the knee," says Hirst. "She . . . asked me to come
along and volunteer so she would know at least one person there. I don't think
either of us ever looked back."
Tina Karabotsos is a volunteer instructor with Disabled Sports USA in Seattle.
Karabotsos is a certified ski instructor and physiotherapist-in-training who's
worked with disabled kids and adults for five years. And, as she can tell
you, kids say the cutest things.
"I was teaching this one little girl to ski -- she'd lost a leg in a car
accident and was just learning for the first time. Also in the same lesson
was another boy who was visually impaired. This little girl said to me that
he should share one of his skis with her so that he could hold her up while
I steered. Things like that are a big reason I keep doing this. These are
some of the most optimistic people I've ever met."
Kendra Downing is a volunteer instructor with the Disabled Skiers' Association
of British Columbia. Downing is fluent in sign language because her mother
is deaf. So, she helps hearing impaired skiers learn the sport.
"You need to communicate effectively with people to teach them," says Downing.
"Demonstration is just not good enough in this case, although it's very important.
I taught my mom to ski, after she'd given up on conventional lessons. All
it took was three or four explanations before she'd made up the lost ground.
Now she skis almost better than I do!"
How to Get Involved
The easiest way to get involved in disabled skiing is to contact the local
chapter or representative. Local ski areas will also be able to direct you
to the appropriate person or organization in your area.
Volunteers don't generally need to be expert skiers, although they may
require teaching experience or instructor certification to teach people to
ski. A lot of volunteer activities involve organizing and coordinating events,
providing information to prospective members, and fundraising or recruiting
If you're able-bodied you'll generally be expected to bring your own ski
equipment. Training and instructor certification are available through most
organizations or ski areas. First aid training is often available through
local health and sports associations, or through your local hospital.
Disabled Sports USA
451 Hungerford Dr., Ste. 100
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International Paralympic Committee
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