: Pat Addabbo

Oregon Adaptive Sports Makes Winter Skiing & Snowboarding Accessible

October 8, 2018 (Updated November 12, 2019)

Bend stands out as a winter playground for all, thanks to the incredible roster of adaptive skiing programs offered through Oregon Adaptive Sports (OAS).

OAS has been in operation in Bend since launching in 1996 as a grassroots adaptive program with the goal of sharing a love of skiing and the outdoors with disabled persons. Now 23 years later, OAS is a registered nonprofit working year-round to empower people of all abilities to fully engage in the outdoors. OAS offers year-round instruction in 10 sports, with the founding winter instruction, including skiing, snowboarding, Nordic and snowshoeing disciplines, continuing to grow and serve both the local community and visitors to Bend.

Oregon Adaptive Sports provides ski lessons and equipment for all skill levels and abilities. (Photo credit: OAS)

OAS has several entry points for participating. Local residents can take advantage of the season-long Locals Ski Program that meets weekly throughout the season. For visitors to Mt. Bachelor, OAS offers extremely-popular individual day and half-day lessons similar to any lesson booked at a ski area. New for 2019-20 season is the Ski Buddy program, pairing independent adaptive skiers and snowboarders with a trained buddy to ski with and to offer on-hill support loading the lift and navigating the mountain.

The skiing, snowboarding and nordic skiing lessons are for everyone from first-timers to seasoned athletes with disabilities. Participants are paired with a certified adaptive instructor and fitted to appropriate equipment; OAS has a range of equipment available including bucket-seat style mono- and bi-skis, and upright style 3-track and 4-track skis with a slew of related adaptive accessories to create the ideal customized on-snow experience. OAS also offers instruction and dedicated equipment for guiding blind and visually impaired skiers, as well as teaching deaf and hard of hearing participants.

OAS encourages participants toward a goal of full independence on the mountain. (Photo credit: OAS)

Lessons are offered seven days a week at Mt. Bachelor beginning December 15 through March 31, 2020. Four-day package lessons on Fridays or Sundays are also offered at Hoodoo Ski Area with dates ranging from mid-January through March 2020. Registration and bookings open online beginning November 1, 2019.

Mt. Bachelor and Hoodoo generously partner with OAS, donating office space and offering both discounted volunteer and student lift tickets, which allows OAS to keep costs low. For those needing additional financial support, OAS also offers scholarship programs.

An OAS group celebrates their descent from the summit of Mt. Bachelor. (Photo credit: OAS)

A typical lesson day starts at the OAS offices at either Hoodoo or Mt. Bachelor, which includes meeting, assessment and gear fitting. Most lessons feature a two-to-one ratio of OAS staff/volunteers per student. Lessons are tailored to each student’s needs and goals. Some lessons can take place all day on the beginner magic carpet learning turns and independence, while skilled adaptive athletes could expect to make their way straight to the upper mountain to ski fresh powder or work on advanced progression techniques. Last season alone, OAS provided 1,000 winter lessons led by a core group of 15 PSIA certified staff instructors, with the additional support of 400 volunteer instructors and assistants.

OAS is staffed up with certified adaptive instructors and volunteers to ensure the best possible experience. (Photo credit: OAS)

“It’s in our mission to empower our participants to build confidence, self-esteem and strive for independence,” says OAS Executive Director Pat Addabbo. “We’ve had a few people who came to us as young adults with spinal cord injuries, and after many days on magic carpet, by end of season they were skiing off the summit. Now they’re skiers out with their friends—independent skiers in our community.”

Many of these now proficient adaptive skiers continue to participate in OAS as volunteers who are able to pass on their experiential knowledge. Addabbo says, “It’s very powerful being able to speak from that experience and serves our newer participants very well.”

OAS instructs participants of all ages and ability levels. (Photo credit: OAS)
OAS participants compete in Bend’s famous Pole Pedal Paddle. (Photo credit: OAS)
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While full independence is the end goal for many participants, it isn’t a goal for every participant. OAS works to maximize everyone’s ability individually to see transformation at every level.

With 23 years of partnership, Mt. Bachelor and Hoodoo are ideal locations for adaptive athletes. Mt. Bachelor is the sixth biggest ski area in the country, just 22 miles from downtown Bend, offering one of the longest seasons in the country. Mt. Bachelor is also host to the OAS Ski For Life program in partnership with local schools across Central Oregon, providing an opportunity for adaptive students to come up with their class and ski together for a school day over four to six weeks.

Hoodoo Ski Area stand on its own as a community ski area with a range of beginner, intermediate and advanced terrain, plus the only night skiing in Central Oregon. Hoodoo is host to the OAS Alpine Adventures program  — one of the longest running adaptive programs in the Northwest. This program offers accessible transportation from Eugene and lessons at Hoodoo on four re-occurring Fridays or Sundays through the winter.

OAS suggests participants book early to ensure availability, as there is limited capacity especially during busy holiday seasons. Also, to be prepared for winter driving conditions and the challenges that come with recreating outdoors in a winter environment. All of the pertinent registration information is available on the OAS website.

Mt. Hood Meadows Ski & Snowboard School also offers adaptive lessons. These lessons are for those of all ability levels age seven and older and are available with 48-hours advanced booking. The school provides package lessons including equipment, trained instruction and a lift ticket. More information on lessons are available at the Mt. Hood Meadows website.

Adaptive Winter Events

Heroes Veterans Weekend is an all-inclusive, all expenses covered weekend in Bend, Oregon open to Pacific Northwest veterans with disabilities and their families. This year’s event is January 24-26, 2020.

Junior Races/Ellie Ski Day: Eligible youth under 25 years old who have a disability and all U of O students with a disability are invited to a full day of skiing and fun at Hoodoo Ski Area. This day is held in memory and celebration of Ellie Bartlett with funding courtesy of the Ellie Bartlett Memorial Fund. This year’s event is February 1, 2020.

Ski for All is OAS’ biggest on snow fundraiser, now in its third year. The event will be held on March 14, 2020 at Mt. Bachelor. The goal of this all abilities ski-a-thon is to raise $50,000 for OAS. Registration will open on Giving Tuesday, December 03, 2019.

The annual Heroes Veterans Weekend is now in its 13th year. (Photo credit: OAS)

About The
Author

Annie Fast
Annie Fast is a lifelong snowboarder and traveler. She was the editor of TransWorld Snowboarding Magazine and prior to that worked at the summer snowboard camps on Mt. Hood. Annie writes about outdoor adventures from her home in Bend.

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