Winter Sports Options for People with Disabilities

This is a great time of year for all people, including those with disabilities, to enjoy the great outdoors or to participate in indoor sports.  

There are many winter sports that are great for people with disabilities, including skiing, snowboarding, cross country skiing, hockey and wheelchair basketball. This is also a good time of year to join a gym to get into shape for summer activities. People with any disability, from autism to spinal cord injuries, can safely participate in a variety of sports. 

Of course, safety should be taken into consideration. For example, someone who has seizures should not ski because of the risk of falling from the chair lift during a seizure. 


Skiers can use many types of adaptive equipment including: 

  • Outriggers, which look like forearm crutches with ski tips on the bottom, for balance
  • A device to hold the ski tips together, called a ski bra
  • Sit down skis called bi skis or mono skis

Camelback Mountain in the Poconos offers an adaptive ski program through the Pennsylvania Center for Adapted Sports. Private lessons with experienced instructors are available at a discount for those with disabilities. More information can be found here. Be sure to book early, as lessons fill up quickly! Jack Frost Big Boulder also offers adaptive ski lessons. Learn more here.

Wheelchair Basketball

Wheelchair basketball is a great indoor sport for those who are not fans of the cold and snow. Participants, typically those with injuries to their lower bodies or spinal cord injuries, use specialized wheelchairs to play. Locally, you can contact the Freewheelers if you are interested in playing. 

Sled Hockey

Sled hockey is a great choice for those with good upper body strength and control.  Participants sit on a sled with three skate blades and propel themselves with small hockey sticks that have metal “teeth” on the ends. The rules are similar to those used  for standing hockey. The closest skating arena that has sled hockey is in Philadelphia. More information is available here.  

Additional Opportunities

Those who have the opportunity to travel to New England or Colorado may want to try cross county skiing. People can ski standing up or sitting down, depending on their abilities.  Visit Disabled Sports USA for more information.  

For those who are interested in getting in shape, gyms in the area offer a wide variety of options. Consider joining Optimal Fitness at Good Shepherd in Allentown to enjoy one of the region’s only fully accessible fitness centers. This is a medical model fitness center, and there are professional fitness experts on hand to assist with setting up a program that fits each individual. It is also the region’s only gym where people in wheelchairs can pull up directly to the weight-lifting equipment. More information is available here.     

Whether you are interested in feeling the wind on your face as you whip down a mountain, want to compete against others on the courts or are interested in improving your fitness, there are many ways to accomplish your goals. You just need to get out there and try something new. Disabled Sports USA is a great resource for additional information on adaptive sports opportunities.

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