Obliterate Obstacles

Ready to kick-start that learning curve, build confidence, and enjoy the camaraderie of skiing or riding with others of your ability?

Experienced skiers or riders and first-timers alike will have a blast learning to do it right with our pro instructors and coaches. Our Adaptive Snowsports School will help you build the skills to conquer the mountain with a smile on your face.

What are adaptive skiing and snowboarding?

Not much different from regular. All of us require some type of adaptive equipment to have fun on snow. For example, skiers use skis, bindings, boots and poles, which did not come as a standard equipment on our bodies. The same rule applies to all snowsports—we all need some kind of adaptive equipment to ski, snowboard, and snowshoe.

Bi-skier with an instructor.
A "busy" powder day for a rider at Powderhorn.

While much of adaptive ski or snowboard teaching concerns the actual mechanics of both sports, it is important to remember that all lessons must revolve around the student and his or her goals and needs. An adaptive skier or snowboarder is a person who requires adaptations to equipment and/or teaching methods. For individuals encumbered on earth by a physical or mental impairment that may make mobility difficult, the act of skiing or snowboarding becomes a rite of passage. This passage allows skiers and snowboarders to do something they never thought they could do, and perhaps do it extraordinarily well. It allows them to be a part of a world that believes there is more to life than work and rehabilitation.

Our adaptive snowsports program work with a wide range of disabled people to provide the unique exhilaration of this sport. To be truly effective, our adaptive snowsports instructors must be versatile and knowledgeable about disabilities so that the experience can be both safe and fun.

Mono-skier on the Racer's Edge
run at Powderhorn.
First "steps" on skis at the beginner's
corral at Powderhorn.

Using specialized knowledge and tools, we work from a blueprint established by our students' desires and capabilities and help build a whole new world for those who have never tried skiing or those whose disability has curtailed participation in the sport. Along the way, we help our students build confidence and physical dexterity.

Throughout this web site, we use the terms "instructor" and "student" because this is the most common situation. However, the reality is much different. Often, the people with whom we share all or part of our day at the slopes already have impressive physical skills and unbridled courage. What they may lack, however, is the ability to ski or snowboard alone or to use standard "off-the-shelf" equipment. In those case, we are not so much an instructor as a guide, and they are less students than guests, clients, and partners.

Assisting a mono-skier in
getting ready for a run.
Race training.

Just as often, we find that we are the students. Our key to success, and that of our students or guests, is to treat each lesson as an opportunity to learn about the person and the disability, how to best build confidence and understanding, and what combinations of teaching tools and progressions can most effectively lead to the common goals of fun, safety, and realistic skill development.

All skiers benefit from using appropriate and properly fitted equipment, but it is especially important that adaptive skiers be outfitted correctly because their equipment can help compensate for their disability. We carefully examine, assess, and modify student's equipment and clothing because proper outfitting is the key to both comfort and the ability to move efficiently.

On the "magic carpet."
Mono-skier at Powderhorn.


The "intellectual disabilities" category encompasses techniques for working with people who need special behavioral or educational assistance.

The "visual impairments" category addresses the adaptations of behavior or equipment that enable the blind or partially sighted student to ski.

Standing skiers with disabilities may use one, two-, three- or four-track skiing techniques. These techniques often use "outriggers" for balance and are named for the number of tracks left in the snow.

The other categories relate to the type of equipment that the skier will use and the special teaching progressions that may be warranted. Three-track and four-track refer to stand-up skiing using either two skis (four-track) or one ski (three-track), along with two outrigger poles. Mono-ski and bi-ski refer to types of sit-skiing equipment in which a molded seating apparatus (or "bucket") is mounted to either one (i.e., mono-ski) or two (i.e., bi-ski) skis. Outriggers are used for sit-skiing as well.


Some adaptive riders use outriggers to help balance themselves while they board, but many don't use any special equipment. Also bindings on the board can be moved to help with balance. Participants include riders with spinal cord injuries, amputations, visual impairments, head injuries, multiple sclerosis and other conditions. Improved balance and increased leg and trunk strength are some of the benefits of riding.

As with adaptive skiing, a wide variety of specialized equipment is used for adaptive snowboarding. Choosing from among these tools is dictated by a rider's strengths and weaknesses. We use these aids merely to assist a rider and not to make him or her dependent on them. The goal is to develop independence from accessory equipment through effective riding.

The following list of some props and methods is by no means comprehensive but is a starting point to help us provide you the best opportunity for learning and progressing:
  • Ski Poles - These tools can be used to aid balance while standing, walking, and climbing and can be tapped together to help visually impaired riders. An instructor can assist alignment and turning by using poles to "connect" with the student—front hand to front hand and back hand to back hand. This method provides good control of speed, turn shape, timing, and moderate edging.
  • Outriggers - This versatile tool can be used to aid balance while standing, walking, and climbing by flipping the tip into the crutch mode, and while riding by flipping the tip into the ski mode. Use of one or two outriggers will depend on the needs of the student.
  • Bamboo Pole - A bamboo pole can also aid balance while standing, walking, climbing, and riding. While sliding, the pole can be tipped to the inside of the turn and used to provide a focal point for the turn.
  • Horse and Buggy - This consists of a bicycle inner tube wrapped around the rider's hips and attached with carabiners to rigid (PVC) poles, tethers, or hula-hoop. This allows the hips to be guided in the intended direction and can be used to control turn shape, speed, and timing.
  • HulaHoopTM or Wheelchair Push Rim - Use of a rigid hoop provides a way to connect the instructor and student without being hands-on.
  • Board Buddy - This piece of equipment is essentially a wind-surfing boom with a harness inside that attaches to the boom at four points.
  • Tethers - These consist of webbing straps attached to either the rider's hips or the board. Using either method, the student maintains balance and creates edging and pressure forces independent of the instructor, although the instructor can provide rotary input.
  • Mono-board - This tool is a mono-ski bucket attached to a snowboard. Movement plans for this method can be adapted from those in mono-skiing. Mono-boarding differs from most snowboarding in the sense that the rider faces forward in the equipment instead of having a toeside/heelside orientation on the board.


Powderhorn Resort has a fresh approach to a skiing or snowboarding adventure. With more than 600 acres to explore, novice and experts can cruise the corduroy, dash into the aspens for glade skiing, plow through waist deep powder, hit the bumps or jib through the terrain parks. Some Powderhorn distinctions include short lift lines, amazing views, hospitable service, informal atmosphere and a welcome feeling of being home.

More information about Powderhorn Resort »

Powderhorn Resort is located in western Colorado on the side of the beautiful Grand Mesa, the world's largest flat-top mountain. With 510 acres of terrain and a vertical drop of 1,650 feet, Powderhorn offers slopes for beginners and experts.

"West End" lift at Powderhorn.

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