Adaptive skiing is the general name given to any form of skiing that deviates from the usual skill pathway in order to adapt (key word) to someone’s individual needs. This may be due to a physical or mental disability that affects the skier’s ability to follow the usual progression and either the equipment or the techniques required for ski instruction are altered. Whilst adaptive skiing is often associated with the sit-ski or guiding blind skiers, it relates to a whole host of alternative equipment and methods.
More often than not, physical disabilities will require adapted equipment for ski instructing, although you will always be required to adapt your teaching style depending on your client anyway. The most common piece of equipment, and the one you will likely be used to seeing is the sit-ski, or bi-ski. There are a number of variations, but essentially the skier is seated in a moulded and secure chair which has a ski or ski-like base. They can be guided by someone behind or steered by the skier, often with two short ‘skis’ at the base of poles for their hands to steer. But there are a number of other disabilities that can be catered for, and a range of equipment available to assist. It is more likely that teaching someone with a physical disability will require more physical input from the instructor so be prepared to be ski-fit for adaptive training, exams and teaching.
Those that are visually impaired will more often than not require some sort of buddy technique. You will need to be able to teach technique and skills without showing them the skill, so your description of how to do something may need additional thought and time. Those with partial sight may need you to wear a bright or specific coloured outfit to enable them to follow you, some will require guide ropes as some physical connection to you, and the more elite athletes often rely on someone skiing in front of them with a connected microphone and hearing piece so that they can hear the sound of the skis as well as spoken description of the conditions and directional information.
As well as the above disabilities, there are a number of other impairments that an adaptive instructor may be required to think about when teaching. Some, but not all, include someone with a brain injury, learning difficulties and sensory impairments. As usual, each individual is exactly that, individual and they will require an adapted technique from their instructor. It may also need to be a more intense interaction between the instructor and the client, in very small groups or on a one-to-one basis so that you can tailor your teaching to the individual.
All of the major ski instructor bodies have a link to, or their own, adaptive programme for instructors:
- BASI – BASI have a specific adaptive pathway that you can follow with 3 levels.
- NZSIA – NZSIA have a specific adaptive pathway with two levels, a third level is currently in the planning stage.
- CSIA – the Canadian Association for Disabled Skiing (CADS) are the main body for the adaptive skiing in Canada, although they work closely with CSIA. There are two main levels, with two examiner levels as well, and there is an additional sit-ski qualification.
- PSIA – PSIA have three levels of adaptive training that you can work through.
- ASPI – ASPI have one exam for adaptive teaching, and people wishing to take the exam must have completed all of the mandatory in-house training in preparation for the exam. They must also already be a current member and work for an Australian snowsports school.
Due to the range of impairments that you may come across, adaptive ski instructing or skiing is exactly that, adapting to the skier that you are working with. No course can prepare you for every disability, just as no qualification can prepare you for every age and personality that you are likely to teach anyway. Therefore, you need to use initiative and the skills that you have developed, both through the traditional ski instructor qualifications and through any specialist adaptive qualifications that you have obtained. And at the end of the day, most people want to learn to ski to have fun and learn a new skill, and for everyone, both thresholds will be individual, so tailor your teaching to meet your student’s requirements.
If you’re looking for more information on adaptive skiing then Freedom 2 Ski is a great place to start, it has resort information about a number of resorts worldwide including accessible accommodation, ski schools and equipment hire. So if you’re looking for a job as an adaptive instructor it could be a good place to start.