Where is the Best Adaptive Winter Sports Program?


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

Want to Ski in a Wheelchair?
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

Lisa Niver is an award-winning travel expert who has explored 102 countries on six continents. This University of Pennsylvania graduate sailed across the seas for seven years with Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean, and Renaissance Cruises and spent three years backpacking across Asia. Discover her articles in publications from AARP: The Magazine and AAA Explorer to WIRED and Wharton Magazine, as well as her site WeSaidGoTravel. On her award nominated global podcast, Make Your Own Map, Niver has interviewed Deepak Chopra, Olympic medalists, and numerous bestselling authors, and as a journalist has been invited to both the Oscars and the United Nations. For her print and digital stories as well as her television segments, she has been awarded three Southern California Journalism Awards and two National Arts and Entertainment Journalism Awards and been a finalist twenty-two times. Named a #3 travel influencer for 2023, Niver talks travel on broadcast television at KTLA TV Los Angeles, her YouTube channel with over 2 million views, and in her memoir, Brave-ish, One Breakup, Six Continents and Feeling Fearless After Fifty.

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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