Maine Adaptive Sports and Recreation

Maine Leads the Way in Adaptive Winter Sports

Adaptive sports are growing in popularity as awareness and technology evolve, but the United States only has a handful of facilities that are fully dedicated to making adaptive winter sports accessible to everyone. With two of the three comprehensive winter programs in the northeast, Maine is equipped to be a premier winter playground for athletes of all abilities – often at little or no cost to the participants.

Photo courtesy of Maine Adaptive Sports and Recreation

While individual challenges can vary widely from person to person, some common barriers prevent many people from taking part in adaptive sports. Access is the number one challenge, which encompasses both awareness and availability of facilities that can accommodate the unique needs of athletes with disabilities.

While many people are able to pursue their goals and enjoy the use of adaptive equipment at the venue of their choice, it can be very difficult to find locations that are specifically set up to routinely accommodate those with non-typical physical and social needs. The programs and support offered by Maine Adaptive Sports & Recreation (MASR) provides an ideal starting point for anyone interested in trying adaptive sports for the first time.

Photo courtesy of Maine Adaptive
Sports and Recreation

In addition to access, the cost of equipment can be a major hurdle for winter sports, which typically require not only specialized sport-specific equipment but also adequate outdoor gear. Maine Adaptive’s programs at Sunday River bridge this barrier by providing free programs for all participants. In addition to the lessons, which are provided by hundreds of trained volunteers, this program includes the use of standard adaptive equipment as well as winter clothing. The adaptive programs at Sunday River are available for ages four and up, with each session tailored specifically to the individual’s needs.

Adaptive alpine skiing and snowboarding are popular programs at Sunday River, and the team there is ready to accommodate a wide range of needs with both specialized equipment and experienced support personnel. One-on-one lessons aren’t limited to beginners and entry-level skills, rather, they are matched to each student’s abilities and personal goals.

Photo courtesy of Adaptive
Outdoor Education Center

An astounding array of adaptive ski equipment is available at Sunday River, accommodating skiers who have visual impairments, balance and strength challenges, motor deficits, and nearly any other type of physical limitation. For those who can stand on one or two limbs, Two-Track, Three-Track, and Four-Track skis, as well as Sliders, provide increasing levels of support with or without tethers as well as other supportive equipment such as tip retention devices.

There are also several options for those who need to be in a seated position, with the Mono-Ski the most widely known. Dual-Skis and Bi-Skis provide additional support for seated skiers using hand-held or fixed outriggers, and the Ski Bike is an excellent option for those who are suited to a hybrid use of seating and lower extremity use.

Photo courtesy of Maine Adaptive
Sports and Recreation

Skiers ages 10 and up can even participate in MASR’s Alpine Race team, which practices and competes throughout the winter across the state. For those who prefer a slower pace, Nordic skiing and snowshoeing are available at Sunday River and several other locations including Bethel Village Trails.

Maine Adaptive’s Veterans No Boundaries program also offers an annual winter event at Sunday River for veterans with disabilities and their families. This retreat is provided at no cost to participants and includes their lineup of outdoor winter sports as well as inclusive indoor recreation that all family members can enjoy together.

Pineland Farms in New Gloucester also offers the Veterans Adaptive Sports & Training (VAST) program. VAST provides both equipment and lessons year-round, with winter activities including snowshoeing, Nordic pole walking, and cross-country skiing.

While the main operations of MASR are headquartered at Sunday River, they also work with a network of partners throughout Maine to ensure even greater access to the programs. Held annually, the Mono-Ski Training Camp is split into two weekends in late February and early March, with one at Saddleback Mountain in Rangeley and the other at Sunday River. Tickets and lessons are provided by Maine Adaptive, and they can also help with equipment needs if they are contacted ahead of time. Other MASR partners include Mount Abram Ski Area in Greenwood and Black Mountain of Maine in Rumford.

Each year in February, Sugarloaf Resort hosts the New England Blind & Visually Impaired Festival. This multi-day event offers lessons for blind and visually impaired alpine skiers and snowboarders of all skill levels, from beginner to advanced. As part of an effort to expand accessibility, programming also includes lessons for anyone interested in becoming a guide for visually impaired skiers and boarders.

If you are looking for a program that specializes in working with individuals with autism spectrum disorders or other developmental disabilities, the Adaptive Outdoor Education Center at Sugarloaf Mountain is a great resource. Each participant is matched up with a “ski buddy” who supports the skier as they take part in Sugarloaf Ski School, allowing the participant to gain physical confidence and experience as well as engage in meaningful social interaction.

Photo courtesy of Adaptive Outdoor Education Center

We all know that winter in Maine can get a tad chilly at times, so if you’re looking for a warmer adaptive activity, Salt Pump Climbing Company is the place to go. Salt Pump has partnered with MASR to provide adaptive climbing lessons at their indoor facility in Scarborough. Over six weeks, staff guides each student and their “climbing buddy” in a progressive skill-building program designed for newcomers to the sport.

The commitment made by Maine communities to provide access to adaptive resources throughout the state ensures that individuals of all abilities can experience the thrill of winter sports.

Story by Lura Rogers Seavey. Lura is a New England native who explores Maine year-round with her family. She is also a disability rights advocate and a former investigator for the New Hampshire Human Rights Commission.

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