A Brief History of Adaptive Snow Sports in NZ

Winter sports for athletes with a disability gradually developed after World War II when large numbers of injured soldiers and civilians tried to return to their skiing activities. Multi-disability skiing competitions began in the 1970s and in 1974 the first world championships were held in Grand Bornand in France. This event featured Alpine (downhill) and Nordic (cross-country) skiing for amputee and visually impaired athletes.

The first Paralympic Winter Games were held in 1976 in Örnsköldvik, Sweden. There were competitions in Alpine and Nordic Skiing for amputee and visually impaired athletes. The success of the first Paralympic Games led to the second Winter Paralympics in 1980 in Geilo, Norway. New Zealand entered this second Paralympic Winter Games with its first Disabled Ski Team. By the third Paralympic Winter Games in 1984, in Innsbruck, the Disabled Ski Team of New Zealand was winning its first medals in an international skiing competition.  

Disabled Snow Sports New Zealand has been around since 1976. The New Zealand Association for Disabled Skiers was formed in this year after a small group of people from the Christchurch ski community met with some skiers with disabilities. To start with it was all about training athletes and getting medals. Between 1995 and 2002 they became involved in the education of volunteers and instructors with the help of the New Zealand Snowsports Instructors Alliance (NZSIA). The branch structure changed and preparation of elite athletes became increasingly professional. In 2010 Snow Sports NZ took over operations with Disabled Snow Sports NZ as a charity arm.

Para-snowboarding was included in the Winter Paralympic Games for the first time in 2014. New Zealand was represented by para-snowboard cross racer Carl Murphy who placed fourth.

New Zealand has a proud history of winning medals at the Paralympic Winter Games. Check the medal tally here