To adapt snowboard lessons for Brass we ask ourselves, “How can I best develop my student’s physical and mental abilities to ‘surf the snow’ while having fun?” Nobody likes falling, and snowboards can limit independent leg mobility. Overcoming fear of the ‘big slam’ often presents the greatest challenge for our students. To address this fear—and any other challenges our students face—we use a variety of adaptive teaching tools and techniques: Sno-Wing, tethering, outriggers, ski poles, rider bar, and doing the dance.


Two volunteers help a snowboard student get into a Sno-wing.The Sno-Wing is a tool best suited for students with a visual impairment or intellectual disability. The snowboard instructor uses the Sno-Wing to give students support, guide them through turns, and control their speed. Instructors have the choice of using skis or a snowboard when teaching with a Sno-Wing.


A male student snowboarding with an instructor snowboarding behind him with the tether connecting them.Tethering is used for students who are able to maintain their own balance. An instructor holds two reigns which are attached to the student’s snowboard. Tethering is best suited for turn initiation and speed control. It’s the quickest learning tool for establishing a snowboarder’s independence.

Outriggers/Ski Poles

A man holding outriggers as he steps into his skis.Handheld outriggers (pictured here, while being used by skier) look like crutches with small skis on the end. For those with limited muscular control or strength like our students with cerebral palsy, outriggers can provide the necessary support and balance while snowboarding downhill. In contrast, snowboard students traveling across flat ground can use ski poles to push themselves along.

Rider Bar

A male snowboarding with the rider bar attached to the snowboard.The rider bar is helpful for students with multiple sclerosis, hemi-pelagic, or for accident victims. These students may have difficulty with the flexion and extension of the ankles, which is necessary for turn initiation. Using the rider bar, the student pushes forward on the bar for a toe-side turn or pulls the bar backward to initiate a heal-side turn.

Doing the Dance

Student and volunteer snowboarders demonstrating doing the dance—face to face and holding hands to help with balance.“Doing the dance” is a teaching technique in which the instructor on her snowboard stands directly in front of the student on his board. While facing the student, the instructor holds the student’s hands, pushing and pulling to initiate turns and help with balance, as she guides them both down the mountain together.

Even though the snowboard learning curve is easier for skateboarders, no athletic ability is required for an adaptive snowboard lesson. Whatever our student’s ability, we will determine the best combination of equipment and learning techniques needed for a positive snowboarding experience.

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