U.S. Paralympics Alp... News Thanks To Oregon Ada...

Thanks To Oregon Adaptive Sports, Outdoor Sports Are Becoming More Accessible

By Stephen Kerr | Nov. 07, 2022, 1:27 p.m. (ET)

Photo courtesy of Oregon Adaptive Sports.

Ravi Drugan will never forget the thrill of his first run at the Hoodoo Ski Area on the summit of Oregon’s Santiam Pass. He was 19 and trying to rebuild his life after a train accident had severed both his legs above the knees three years earlier.

 

Drugan signed up for a half-day lesson, then continued on his own with the help of his father Dan, an experienced skier. By the time the day was over, he was hooked.

 

Drugan, now 32, went on to make the U.S. Paralympics Alpine Skiing National Team. He competed at his first Paralympic Winter Games in Beijing last March, finishing 10th in slalom, 17th in super-G and 20th in giant slalom.

 

To this day, he credits Oregon Adaptive Sports (OAS) for his success.

 

“They’ve definitely been the biggest impact and supporter to get me to where I am,” said Drugan, who has lived in Oregon since he was a toddler. “They gave me the opportunity to use equipment, get a lesson, go out and ski anytime I want. It got me to be the skier I am and the free skier I was before I even started racing.”

 

OAS was established over 25 years ago by a group of employees at Mt. Bachelor in Bend, Oregon who saw a need for adaptive sports for people with disabilities. School children often visited the mountain, and the employees noticed the disabled students didn’t have the same opportunity to ski as their able-bodied peers.

 

That’s when they decided to form a nonprofit that would not only provide adaptive activities, but allow individuals to build confidence and self-esteem through a better quality of life.

 

“Adaptive skiing existed back then, but it was much less prevalent than it is now,” explained Pat Addabbo, the OAS executive director. “They were able to find some resources and get some adaptive equipment and start getting those kids with disabilities out when the school groups would come up. Shortly after that, there were a couple of individuals who had recently moved up to Bend from the Tahoe area, which had ski programs for a long time. They teamed up with these locals and started to expand opportunities.”

 

Addabbo, who earned a bachelor’s degree in outdoor leadership from Warren Wilson College in Asheville, North Carolina, worked for Move United and Adaptive Sports Center in Colorado before moving to Bend, Oregon. He joined OAS in 2016 as its program director before becoming executive director in the fall of 2017.

 

 

OAS is now Oregon’s primary destination for many individuals with disabilities to participate in year-round programs. In addition to alpine skiing, people of all ages can take part in cross-country skiing, snowboarding, cycling, golf, hiking and mountain biking.

 

Not everyone aspires to become a Paralympian. OAS offers ski lessons for people of all skill levels. The equipment is state of the art and instructors are highly trained to work with all types of disabilities. Lessons take place at Mt. Bachelor and Mt. Hoodoo, with a pilot program at Mt. Ashland to start soon.

 

Interested participants can fill out an intake form on the organization’s website to match them with the right program and equipment.

 

“We currently have about $250,000 of adaptive sports equipment in our inventory,” Addabbo said. “A large portion of that is winter equipment: sit skis, snow sliders, bi- and monoskis. We do a ton of work to make sure that our staff, instructors and volunteers are all trained to work with the equipment and all of our different athletes.”

 

Families and caregivers are always encouraged to be part of the process. Once they overcome their initial hesitation of the slopes, many skiers return for multiple lessons, sometimes for a full season.

 

Drugan is one of them. While he no longer trains with the organization, he still volunteers his time as an ambassador, making appearances at fundraisers and other events. He enjoys sharing his story with the athletes and volunteers, even going on the slopes with them when he can.

 

“I love getting out there and skiing with new people,” Drugan said. “A lot of times, Oregon Adaptive Sports will have a more advanced skier come along to show and guide them around the mountain. I enjoy sharing the love of skiing and adaptive sports, especially for younger people who may be feeling they don’t have an opportunity to get out there in the world.”

 

Instructors hold at least Level 1 certification, and many have higher certification in adaptive skiing. Lesson rates include all equipment, a lift ticket and an instructor. The first three lessons for new skiers are offered at no cost, thanks to a donation from Toyota, a Team USA sponsor. Scholarships are available for those unable to pay beyond that.

 

“We will meet (individuals) where they are in terms of financial ability,” Addabbo explained. “We’ll never turn somebody away because of an inability to pay. We also have specific opportunities for veterans and youth.”

 

Once an athlete is signed up, he or she is paired with an instructor and a team of volunteers according to their experience level. Most lessons run around two and a half hours. Athletes are greeted by a program coordinator who then introduces them to the instructor. The team outlines a plan with athletes according to skill level and goals they would like to achieve.

 

“If it’s their very first time skiing, they may spend a chunk of time getting all their gear, whether it’s getting fit up with a sit ski or going to the rental shop to get more traditional alpine ski equipment,” Addabbo said. “Then they’ll start on snow wherever that athlete is from an ability standpoint.”

 

Addabbo is grateful to Drugan and other Paralympians for spreading awareness of OAS and adaptive sports. To him, nothing compares to an athlete discovering his or her possibilities.

 

“When the barriers are removed, the potential is truly great,” Addabbo said. “We don’t help our athletes overcome a disability, we help them overcome barriers to the outdoors.”

 

For more information on Oregon Adaptive Sports, visit their website.

Stephen Kerr

Stephen Kerr is a freelance journalist and newsletter publisher based in Austin, Texas. He is a contributor to USParaSnowboarding.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc. You can follow him on Twitter @smkwriter1.