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Deaf Snowboarding:

Also see: Sign for Snowboarding
Also see: Deaflympics Snowboarding


By Kelsey Hammerel
Saturday, April 4, 2009


Deaf Snowboarding

Ever since I was eleven years old, I have enjoyed the sport of snowboarding. This current 2008-2009 season I received a season's pass to both Northstar and Sierra-at-Tahoe ski resorts; and spent every spare minute away from work up at the mountain. My interest in ASL on the other hand began almost three years ago in my ASL 1 class. I am currently in an ASL 2 class and exploring the commonalities between the deaf culture and snowboarding.

According to an online forum, various deaf and hard of hearing snowboarders described the only difference between the hearing and non-hearing is the concept of balance. One member of the website mentioned that with sounds, those who can hear balance even with eyes closed. For the deaf community, that balance is unstable, making it difficult to snowboard or ski. That same individual stated, "I replaced my sound with relaxing. No worries, my mind isn't on anything. My mind is clear, no sounds, just me and the snow beneath the board that I'm riding." (Alldeaf, 2008).

One option for those who are deaf or hard of hearing and would like experience snowboarding is to take lessons from a fluent or accredited ASL instructor. One resort that offers these lessons is the Aspen resort in Aspen, Colorado. During the course of my research I also found the United States Deaf Ski and Snowboard Association (USDSSA). This non-profit organization in comprised of deaf and hard of hearing skiers and snowboarders, founded in 1968. "USDSSA is a National Sports Organization (NSO) member of the USA Deaf Sports Federation (USADSF) and recognized by U.S. Ski & Snowboard Association (USSA)." (

The athletes of the USDSSA participate at an elite level every four years in the Deaflympics. Founder, Eugene Rubens-Alcais had a vision of bringing together talented deaf athletes to engage in friendly competition to promote cultural and social interaction within the deaf community. "The games that started as a small gathering of 148 deaf athletes from nine countries competing in the International Silent Games in Paris, France, in 1924, have grown into a global movement." (CISS, 2009). Competing participants must be deaf, defined as a hearing loss of at least 55 dB in the better ear (3-tone frequency average at 500, 1000 and 2000 Hertz, ISO 1964 Standard). (Technical rules, 2006). Just recently, the 2007 deaflympic winter games in Salt Lake City had more than 600 participants and officials. There are three events that are judged in the snowboarding section of the Deaflympics; the parallel giant slalom, the snowboard cross, and the half-pipe. The parallel slalom includes a course of 25 gates and is mandatory for participants to wear a helmet and aerodynamic suit. The snowboard cross is a relatively new event, with moguls, jumps, and sharp turns incorporated. It is raced in groups of four, and lasts about 40-70 seconds. The last event, the half-pipe is designed to evaluate 5-8 tricks performed by the athletes where 5 judges give a 1-10 score for their execution. The 17th winter Deaflympics will be held in 2011 in High Tetras, Slovakia.

I am impressed that the Deaflympics have become the fast growing sports events and oldest after the Olympics. It's great that deaf and hard of hearing athletes can engage in the same kinds of competitive sports as hearing individuals. Aside from the competitive aspect, I think skiing or snowboarding would be a good experience for all deaf people; especially if there were more trained ASL instructors and resort staff members. Deaf snowboarders may not be able to hear voices as their going down the slopes, but who needs to when you can enjoy feeling the wind on your face and the snow beneath you!


All deaf -- (2008). Deaf Snowboarders HELP! Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.

(2008). Meet the Pros -- Adaptive. Aspen Skiing Company.

(2008). The U.S. Deaf Ski & Snowboard Association. International Center for Disability Resources on the Internet.

Technical rules -- (2006). General Technical Rules -- Winter Deaflympics. International Committee of Sports for the Deaf.

CISS -- (2009). News. International Committee of Sports for the Deaf .

Lauren Brizzi

Deaf Snowboarding

Skiing and Snowboarding have always been a part of my life. Ski trips were weekly with my dad during the winter. I absolutely love the sport and I am currently an officer in the Sac State Ski and Snowboard Club. ASL 1 has taught me a lot about the signing community and because I enjoy snowboarding and skiing so much I wanted to research what these two had in common. After some research I came across the United States Deaf Ski and Snowboard Association (USDSSA). This organization was founded in 1968 with 45 members. By laws were formed and officers were voted in. They were to meet every two years and membership fees would cover office supplies and medals. In 1970 members decided to join the "American Athletic Association of the Deaf (AAAD, now known as USA Deaf Sports Federation) in order to participate in the Winter World Games for the Deaf, and to bid to host the Winter World Games for the Deaf at Lake Placid, New York in 1975." (

The USDSSA formed a ski week convention, soon hearing people learned about the convention and then formed there own US Ski Association convention. At these conventions the deaf members urged ski patrol companies to carry pen and paper with them when on the mountain so they could communicate with deaf skiers and snowboarders. Throughout the last 30 years this association has become quite notable in helping members get into the Winter Deaflympics. The Deaflympics is one of the fastest growing sports in the world. The Deaflympics were started in 1924 by Eugene Rubens-Alcais and known then as the silent games. The Silent Games were the first for any group of people with disabilities. In 2007 there were over 96 countries registered to compete in the Deaflympics. "Over 600 athletes and officials participated in the 16th Winter Deaflympics in Salt Lake City, United States in February 2007." (

Slovakia will hold the 17th Deaflympics in February 2011. Unlike the Olympics the Deaflympics have few regulations to compete. To compete you must be, Deaf, defined as a hearing loss of at least 55 dB per tone average in the better ear (3-tone frequency average at 500, 1000 and 2000 Hertz, ISO 1969 Standard) AND Members of an affiliated National Deaf Sports Federation and citizens of that country. The Deaflympics has Sportsman and Sportswoman of the year, currently Amanda Goyne from USA is the title holder for Alpine Skiing. She brought home 3 medals in 2003 and she is 2 in the US Ski and Snowboard Association by her age group in the slalom and giant slalom events. To be deaf and a skier or snowboarder should not be too challenging because it is more of an individual sport. I think that all ski patrols at all mountains should carry pen and paper so they can communicate with deaf skiers. It is amazing that the Deaflympics has become such a popular sport. I would recommend skiing or snowboarding to any deaf or hearing person it is such a tranquil thing to do. To be on the mountain with nothing but blue skies, fresh powder, and your board strapped to your feet is the best feeling in the world. Nothing is stopping you, its you and the mountain!


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