U.S. Paralympics Sno... Features Adaptive Action Spor...

Adaptive Action Sports Creates No Limits Zone For Disabled Athletes

By Stephen Kerr | Nov. 22, 2021, 12:43 p.m. (ET)

A snowboard athlete participates in one of Adaptive Action Sports' programs. (Photo courtesy of Adaptive Action Sports)

All too often, people with disabilities are told “you can’t,” especially when it comes to competing in sports.


Adaptive Action Sports has a completely different view. Founded in 2005 by Dan Gale and his wife, three-time Paralympic medalist Amy Purdy, AAS provides action sports and recreation programs and high-level snowboard training for disabled youth, adults and wounded veterans.


The goal is to enrich the lives of participants and spectators alike and create a realization that there are no limits to what can be achieved.


“We adopt that mantra that you can achieve what you want,” explained Gale, who was born in Phoenix but grew up in Washington, D.C. “You can set goals that are smart and that are attainable. Certainly, that’s a big piece of our culture.”


Gale spent a lot of time outdoors as a kid. His father, an avid skier, introduced his son to the sport, and Dan remembers going with his father to Copper Mountain, Colorado, which is now AAS’ base of operations.


“I came full circle,” Gale said.


Since AAS was the first of its kind when it started, there were some growing pains. When consulting other organizations, Gale was often told to stick to more “traditional” sports like cycling, swimming and running. But he and Purdy stuck to their plan.


“We are action sports enthusiasts,” Gale said. “We both skateboard and snowboard and mountain bike. Those are the sports we related to, so we knew we wanted to move forward in that direction.”


AAS teaches skateboarding and snowboarding, along with skill development, camaraderie and activities to build a disabled individual’s self-esteem. Gale has a staff of two 200-level coaches, one 300-level staff member, and four volunteers certified for training. Instructors are trained to work with all ages and skill levels. Whether striving to become a member of the U.S. Paralympic Team or take up the sport for fun, AAS has something for everyone’s skill level. Many athletes end up becoming mentors, supporting new athletes as they come along.


Prospective athletes are initially given an intake form to complete, and are taken out for a few days to a week for an assessment. The main objective, Gale explains, is to get them on a board and have fun moving down a hill.


“They’ve really got to spend some time training and learning the fundamentals of snowboarding,” Gale said. “Then we encourage them to join into a USASA slalom or giant slalom competition, which is flat, no features on the snow. It’s just around the gates.”


After a season of training under their belt, athletes are slotted into snowboardcross. The following season, they usually compete in banked slalom and snowboardcross competitions before acquiring their classification. Next comes Para snowboard competition at the IPC level.


“A lot of it is being dedicated enough to spend the time needed to progress, like any sport or anything we do in life,” Gale explained. “You’ve got to practice and put the time in to achieve success.”


For athletes traveling in from other states, AAS assists in cutting down their expenses as much as possible, typically through lift tickets, equipment rental and occasionally coaching fees.


“We try and cut things about in half,” Gale said. “That’s all the way through from somebody who’s just learning to snowboard to our elite level trainees.”


Gale has worked with approximately 10 Paralympians, and current national team member Zach Miller resides at Dan and Amy’s home. At the Team USA Media Summit, held virtually in October, Miller was asked to name a person who has impacted his journey. He didn’t hesitate in naming Gale, who is his development coach and the one who brought him to his first world cup.


“This dude has full-on adopted me,” Miller said with a chuckle. “I’m pretty much his son now. He’s my second dad; he’s my mountain dad … He’s introduced me to all the things that have turned me into the person that I am and into the athlete that I am.”


For Gale and Purdy, nothing compares to seeing athletes having fun and fulfilling their dreams through snowboarding.


“That’s what keeps me going,” Gale said. “Working with somebody, watching them grow and flourish and achieving their dreams, that’s what keeps both Amy and I doing what we do. It feels amazing, it feels fantastic to give back to the action sports community, but also to the adaptive community. It’s an underserved community, but so deserving of inclusion. That’s a lot of the motivation for what we do too.”


To find out more about Adaptive Action Sports or to enroll in one of its programs, visit their website, or email them at info@adacs.org.

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.