U.S. Paralympics Nordic Skiing

Kendall Gretsch competing at the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Paralympic Games.

About Para Nordic Skiing

Paralympic Nordic skiing includes both cross-country skiing events and the biathlon discipline. Cross-country races range from 800m head to head sprints to 20 km depending on class and gender. Biathlon combines elements of cross-country skiing and shooting. Athletes ski three or five loops, stopping after each loop to shoot at five targets (10 or 20 targets total, depending on the race format). For each missed shot, the athlete either skis a 100-150 meter penalty lap or has one minute added to their final time for each missed shot.
Paralympic Nordic skiing competition is open to male and female athletes with physical disabilities such as amputation/limb loss, blindness/visual impairment, spinal cord injury/wheelchair-users and cerebral palsy/brain injury/stroke.


Biathlon was introduced in Innsbruck in 1988 for athletes with a physical impairment, and in 1992, athletes with a vision impairment also became eligible to compete. The events consist of a 2.0 or 2.5 km course skied three or five times in the free technique for a total race distance between 6-15 km. Between the two stages athletes must hit two targets located at a distance of 10m. Each miss is penalized by an increase in the overall route time. The most important success factor lies in the capability of alternating the skills of physical endurance and shooting accuracy during the competition.

Athletes with vision impairment are assisted by acoustic signals, which depending on signal intensity, indicate when the athlete is on target.

The sport is governed by the IPC with coordination by the World Para Nordic Skiing Technical Committee following the modified rules of the International Biathlon Union (IBU).

Cross-country skiing first appeared at the 1976 Winter Paralympic Games in Örnsköldsvik, Sweden. The competition is open to athletes with a physical impairment and blindness/vision impairment. Men and women used the classical technique in all cross-country distances until skating was introduced by athletes at the Innsbruck 1984 Paralympic Winter Games. Since then, events have been split into two separate races: classical and free technique. The new technique, however, was not officially used in a medal race until 1992 in Albertville, France.

Depending on functional impairment, a competitor may use a sit-ski, a chair equipped with a pair of skis.

Athletes with vision impairment compete in the event with a sighted guide.

Male and female athletes compete in short distance, middle distance and long distance (ranging from 2.5km to 20km) or participate in a team relay using classical or free techniques.

Cross-country skiing is governed by the IPC with coordination by the World Para Nordic Skiing Technical Committee following modified rules of the International Ski Federation (FIS) and is practiced by athletes in 24 countries.


The rifle shall be any type of air or CO2 rifle of conventional appearance with a five shot clip and in accordance with specifications of the International Union of Shooting's (U.I.T) rule.

For Blind class, the rifle will be equipped with electro-acoustic glasses (optronic system). Blind athletes are shooting with an electronic rifle that allows aiming by hearing. The closer the rifle points to the center of the target, the higher the tone is. The different tones that occur when the rifle is moved allows the shooter to find the exact center of the target

Biathlon uses metal drop-down targets of which consist of a white target face plate with five target apertures, behind which are five independently operating knock down, falling plate scoring targets. The scoring plates must be black.

A hit must be indicated by the black target circle being replaced by a white indicator disc. The target size has a diameter of 30mm for vision impaired athletes (class B) and 13mm for athletes with a physical disability (class LW).

Some athletes with a physical impairment compete from a sitting position using a sit-ski, also called a mono-ski. As the name suggests, mono-skis have a specially fitted chair over a single ski. The chair includes seat belts and other strapping, as well as a suspension device to minimize wear and tear on the skier's body.

Made from fiberglass, classical skis are usually 25cm to 30cm taller than the height of a skier. They are light, weighing less than 0.45kg each; and narrow, with curved tips and a cambered midsection, which is thicker and arched.

Free technique skis are about 10cm to 15cm shorter for greater maneuvering. They are also nominally stiffer and have tips that curve less than classical technique skis. The underside of both types of skis has a groove down the center to keep the ski straight when going downhill.
Paralympic Winter Games Host Cities
1976 - Örnsköldsvik, Sweden
1980 - Geilo, Norway
1984 - Innsbruck, Austria
1988 - Innsbruck, Austria
1992 - Tignes - Albertville, France
1994 - Lillehammer, Norway
1998 - Nagano, Japan
2002 - Salt Lake City, United States
2006 - Turin, Italy
2010 - Vancouver, Canada
2014 - Sochi, Russia
2018 - Pyeongchang, South Korea
2022 - Beijing, China
2026 - Milan and Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy
Paralympic Winter Games Sports
Alpine Skiing
Nordic Skiing (Biathlon and Cross-country skiing)
Sled Hockey
Wheelchair Curling
Team USA Total Medals by Paralympic Winter Games
Year - Host City - Total Medals - Gold, Silver, Bronze
2018 - Pyeongchang, South Korea - 36 - 13 gold, 15 silver, 8 bronze
2014 - Sochi, Russia - 18 - 2 gold, 7 silver, 9 bronze
2010 - Vancouver, Canada - 13 - 4 gold, 5 silver, 4 bronze
2006 - Turin, Italy - 12 - 7 gold, 2 silver, 3 bronze
2002 - Salt Lake City, United States - 43 - 10 gold, 22 silver, 11 bronze
1998 - Nagano, Japan - 34 - 13 gold, 8 silver, 13 bronze
1994 - Lillehammer, Norway - 43 - 24 gold, 12 silver, 7 bronze
1992 - Tignes - Albertville, France - 45 - 20 gold, 16 silver, 9 bronze
1988 - Innsbruck, Austria - 30 - 7 gold, 17 silver, 6 bronze
1984 - Innsbruck, Austria - 35 - 7 gold, 14 silver, 14 bronze
1980 - Geilo, Norway - 6 - 4 gold, 1 silver, 1 bronze
1976 - Örnsköldsvik, Sweden - 0
Team USA Total Nordic Skiing Medals by Games
Year - Host City - Total Medals - Gold, Silver, Bronze
2018 - Pyeongchang, South Korea - 16 - 6 gold, 7 silver, 3 bronze
2014 - Sochi, Russia - 3 - 2 silver, 1 bronze
2010 - Vancouver, Canada - 1 - 1 bronze*
2006 - Turin, Italy - 3 - 2 gold, 1 bronze
2002 - Salt Lake City, United States - 5 - 5 silver
1998 - Nagano, Japan - 2 - 2 bronze
1994 - Lillehammer, Norway - 4 - 3 silver, 1 bronze
1992 - Tignes - Albertville, France - 3 - 2 gold, 1 bronze
1988 - Innsbruck, Austria - 2 - 1 gold, 1 bronze**
1984 - Innsbruck, Austria - 1 - 1 silver
1980 - Geilo, Norway - 0
1976 - Örnsköldsvik, Sweden - 0

* First Team USA biathlon medal
** Biathlon added at Innsbruck 1988 Paralympic Winter Games