As the snow and ice of winter settle in over the northern part of the US, many folks dream of sun, sand and surf and head for the southern beaches. It’s the way of the snowbird. On the other hand, just as many folks pray for snow and head for the hills as soon as the ski areas open. But are winter skiing vacations really an option for wheelchair users? Gladly, they are. Thanks to adaptive equipment and new techniques, just about anybody can learn to ski. And although you don’t have to be an avid skier to enjoy a winter skiing holiday, it helps to know about the adaptive techniques, equipment and resources available before you hit the slopes.


So here’s a quick rundown of what you can expect to find at adaptive ski schools across the US. The good news is, there are a lot of options, no matter what your ability. Skiers who can stand up can use standard snow skis and a set of outriggers. The outriggers, which are used in place of ski poles, are mini-skis attached to a pair of adapted forearm crutches. Th ey help with balance and control and are ideal for people with lower-limb weakness.


Skiers who use one ski and two outriggers are called three-track skiers, whereas those who use two skis and two outriggers are called four-track skiers. The “tracks” refer to the number of ski marks left in the snow by the skier. Four-track skiers may also use a ski bra, a small tube attached to the tip of each ski, which prevents the skis from crossing. Four-track skiing is best suited for people who lack balance or have weakness in their limbs, whereas three-track skiing is a good choice for many amputees.