For many Australians, heading to the snow is something to look forward to each year. For most, it’s just a nice holiday but for others it can be transformational.
Disabled Wintersport Australia (DWA) supports those living with a disability or medical condition – physical, sensory, intellectual, acquired and psychiatric or psychological – to participate in skiing and snowboarding across major Australian snow resorts.
“We offer adaptive equipment, such as sit skis, as well as volunteer guides to assist and accompany our members on the slopes,” says Rick Coate, CEO of Disabled Wintersport Australia.
With camps running in Falls Creek in Victoria, and Perisher and Thredbo in New South Wales, there’s opportunity for people of all abilities to “share the same snowy passion” in a welcoming environment alongside family, friends and specialist help.
Realise the power of gravity
DWA runs a Race Week in conjunction with the annual Australian Defence Force snowsports championships. Participants can compete against ADF personnel, many of whom have their own adaptive needs.
Now, DWA hopes to see more veterans hit the slopes.
“We believe that the experiences all members have on-snow can help them change their lives,” says Rick. “When they are able to realise the power of gravity and use it to do the amazing things… it can be very transformational. We believe the same experience can be had by veterans, allowing for improved physical and mental health.”
First timers, elite athletes, and volunteers
While most participants get involved for the love of the snow, the rush of cold air and the pull of gravity, there are some DWA members who have gone on to compete in the Sochi and PyeongChang Paralympic Games.
This is thanks to talent identification programs run by DWA and the Australian Paralympic Committee. By identifying potential athletes, DWA can help them on their way to compete at an elite level.
There are plenty of opportunities for first timers too. DWA has a dedicated network of Volunteer Adaptive Snowsports Guides who help members participate according to their ability and preferences.
How does it work? Well, it depends on the needs of the individual. It might involve a volunteer guiding a blind skier down a run, “piloting” a sit-ski, or helping a skier or snowboarder get the most out of their equipment.
“DWA’s volunteers are the life blood of the organisation,” says Rick. “For everything they give up to help us run our programs – we believe they get the same back.”
Find out more
You can find out more about Disabled Wintersports Australia on the DWA website.
If you have adaptive needs and would like to get involved in snow sports, get in touch with Veteran Sport Australia, and we’ll connect you to an opportunity.
Don’t forget to subscribe to the VSA email newsletter to stay up to date with opportunities and stories from around the country.