If you have followed along with the Rollx Vans blog for any length of time, you may have noticed that in addition to talking about our wheelchair van, we also talk a lot about accessible sports. That could be because we are big sports fans around the Rollx Vans offices. But, it could also be because sports are a great way to include exercise into a regular routine. This is especially true for wheelchair users, as adapted sports provide wheelchair users a way to strengthen muscles that would otherwise remain dormant and tone other muscles that are used regularly to help wheelchair users get around.
That is why when we heard about one organization’s mission to teach wheelchair users how to ski, we knew we had to share more about them. This organization is the National Sports Center for the Disabled (NSCD) and their adaptive ski program is based in Colorado.
Learning to Ski with the NSCD
Utilizing the mountains of Winter Park Resort in Winter Park, Colorado, the National Sports Center for the Disabled provides lessons to thousands of wheelchair users each winter. Their programming includes private lessons for adaptive ski, snowboard or ski bike, adaptive cross-country ski and snowshoe lessons, various season-long clubs, and group lessons. Each lesson can be customized to the individual or group’s abilities and their winter sports goals. They also provide a Bridge Program for adaptive winter sports participants to transition from the recreational sports enthusiast to a competitive sports athlete.
Lessons are available from November through April (which means there is still time to take advantage of their programming this season). While you can find full details about their lessons on their website, here is a quick snapshot of their programming:
- Individual Lessons
Private lessons are offered for a wide-range of adaptive skiing styles including two-track, three-track, four-track, slider ski, ski bike, monoski, dual-ski, bi-ski and snowboard, and also for adaptive cross-country skiing or snowshoeing. These lessons can be either a full day or half day timeframe and are available for individuals age 5 and up. Lessons include all equipment necessary, the instructor and lift tickets. Adults and children must be either independent in self-care or bring a caregiver with to assist during the lesson(s).
- Group Lessons
Groups of five or more can register together to take weekly lessons for alpine skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing or snowshoeing. The lessons run for five consecutive weeks and include an instructor, all the necessary equipment and lift tickets. Like the individual lessons, the only requirement is that individuals within the group class are independent in self-care or bring a caregiver with to assist them during each lesson.
- The Bridge Program
This program offered by the NSCD allows recreational skiers to work with past paralympic athletes to become fully independent on the snow covered trails. This five week course is designed to help these aspiring athletes transition from a recreational sports pace to a training pace and work towards joining a competitive team. This program is available to both adults and children ages 12 and up. The NSCD also hosts the Grand Country Special Olympics team, and athletes that complete the Bridge Program can sign up to participate on this team.
But, Wait! There’s More!
The NSCD does not just offer ski, snowboard, and snowshoe lessons for wheelchair users. During the winter sports off season, the NSCD also offers adaptive sports and activities like river rafting, rock climbing, adaptive airgun and archery, and water sports like canoeing, kayaking, stand up paddleboarding and fishing. Each of these programs are offered at various times throughout the year and are available to either individuals or groups. All of the programs include the use of the necessary equipment and range in cost (with many programs being grant subsidized to keep costs low). Veterans programs are also offered through the NSCD at no cost for Veterans with a disability (again, thanks in part to grant funding). You can learn more about these adaptive sports programs on the NSCD website here.
More About the National Sports Center for the Disabled
The NSCD started back in 1970, by simply providing skiing lessons for the Children’s Hospital of Denver. The program was specifically designed to allow children with amputations the ability to ski. Throughout the years the organization has grown to also offer lessons for adults with disabilities. And with that growth, the mission has also evolved. The organization’s goal is to enable the human spirit through therapeutic sports and recreation. They strive to reach this goal by offering their various lessons and programming to as many individuals as possible, regardless of their physical abilities.
Since the program’s inception, the NSCD has had the opportunity to host more than 4,000 children and adults with disabilities each year and invite them to become active in sports programs. These 4,000 individuals make up a full year of scheduling that includes more than 18,000 lessons and the inclusion of individuals with both physical and cognitive disabilities. And, with the help of external funding by various local agencies, they are able to keep costs low (or no cost) for participants and hope to continue to expand their programming into the future.
Why Wait? Get Moving and Get Involved.
In all of our years working with wheelchair users, we have never encountered anyone that said they wish they had waited longer to get involved in a wheelchair sports program. If you are currently in the state of Colorado or if you are planning a trip out in your wheelchair van, give the staff at the National Sports Center for the Disabled a call or reach out to them through their website. Their team can help you get started with a one-time lesson, joining an ongoing program throughout the year, or volunteering to assist in their ongoing mission to help wheelchair users become more active. Once you have taken the next step in a lesson or volunteer position with the NSCD, make sure to tell our team all about your experience. We love hearing your stories and sharing in all the excitement that recreational participation can bring to our customers and their families.