Athletes with disabilities have found success in many winter sports, including downhill skiing, nordic skiing and hockey. Now, kids and adults with disabilities are also experiencing the joys of snowboarding. Lucas Grossi, who directs an adaptive snowboarding summer camp on Mt. Hood, believes that "snowboarding is easier to pick up [than skiing] for disabled people. Snowboarding feeds the soul true freedom."
What is adaptive snowboarding? Participants include riders with spinal cord injuries, amputations, visual impairments, head injuries, multiple sclerosis and other conditions.
"People with various types of disabilities will be able to make snowboarding work for them. Above knee amputees will ride with a little rigging to their prosthetic and possibly using outriggers. People with partial paralysis can use restrictive knee braces and outriggers to shred down the hill. Paraplegics will have a ride that is kind of like a mono ski. ... It just takes the right attitude and a little trial and error." Lucas should know. He has been perfecting his own prosthesis with the help of three companies in particular: Northern Care O and P, Springlite, and Alps Liners. Lucas puts his leg to the test with fat powder turns, riding in the trees and dropping huge cliffs.
Talk show host Montel Williams took up snowboarding last year as therapy for his multiple sclerosis. "For the last two years, and really almost the last eight years of my life, I've had a problem with my feet. Sometimes not even feeling my toes, not even feeling the balls of my feet, not feeling the heel in my foot. I wasn't doing anything specifically to put my brain back in touch with my feet, but snowboarding is a weird little sport. Both feet are locked into a board, and you have to utilize your toes and you have to utilize your heels."
Montel credits snowboarding with putting his brain back in touch with his feet. This unique form of therapy has also offered him the exhilaration of being on the mountain and learning a new sport. Now, he's addicted. "[Snowboarding] has changed my life."
Skiing has a relatively long and successful history of adaptive techniques and instruction. By comparison, adaptive snowboarding is still in a grassroots phase. With inspiration from riders like Lucas Grossi and Montel Williams, it is likely that adaptive snowboarding will soon find itself alongside skiing in both availability and popularity.
Join the discussion on adaptive snowboarding at http://forums.about.com/ab-snowboarding/messages?msg=79.1 .