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Adaptive Snowboarding coming to Whistler



Whistler Adaptive Ski Program hopes to expand to include snowboarding

One man created a device called a "board buddy" that resembles a windsurfing boom with a harness in the middle to help his visually impaired wife snowboard down the mountain.

Another young man from New Zealand with cerebral palsy uses outriggers, poles with skis attached, to help him stay balanced on his snowboard and to push himself through flat areas.

One former snowboarder who lost his legs above the knee lowers himself into snowboard boots and uses his hands to help him carve down the slopes.

Paraplegics and amputees have used buckets mounted on snowboards, and adaptive ski instructors in Colorado have used ski poles attached to bicycle inner tubes to guide snowboarders with visual and motor function disabilities.

A few adaptive ski programs in B.C. and around the world already offer a wide range of snowboarding opportunities for their disabled clients, but there is no program in Whistler yet, and no set of guidelines for adaptive ski and snowboard instructors.

That should change after a Jan. 20 information session hosted by the Whistler Adaptive Ski Program, which brought together coaches from the B.C. Snowboard Team with adaptive snow sports volunteers from around Whistler, Vancouver Island, the Interior and the Lower Mainland.

"We’re in the process of information sharing," said Tyler Mosher, a volunteer with the Whistler Adaptive Ski Program who is spearheading the effort to create a universal standard for adaptive snowboarding.

"There has been adaptive snowboarding for a long time now in different places, and we all knew each other existed, but we were all moving forward independently. This was a chance to finally come together and share what we’ve learned," he said.

According to Mosher there is currently no manual for instructing adaptive snowboarding. "There’s no formal methodology to teach it, like ‘this person has this disability, so these are the tools you’re going to need, and this is how a lesson should go,’" said Mosher.

There’s also no governing body or association for the sport, and no progression or infrastructure has been put in place to take recreational adaptive snowboarders into competition.

The future of adaptive snowboarding is particularly important to Mosher, who sustained a spinal cord injury while riding on Blackcomb Mountain three years ago. A fall onto some rocks left him partially paralyzed, with no feeling in his calves or gluteus muscles. It’s difficult to balance and lean forward on his toe edge, he says, but he can still carve a little on groomed runs using a shorter snowboard.

One day he would like to see a program for adaptive snowboarding in Whistler, and at every ski resort that offers programs for disabled skiers. He would also like to see disabled snowboarding competitions at the provincial, national and international level.