Programmatic Guidelines

Final Draft Adaptive Ski Program Guidelines for Operating on Public Lands

Over the past several years, draft guidelines have been developed with the support of a cost share agreement between the USDA Forest Service and Beneficial Designs, Inc. This draft document does not constitute final direction, however it represents input from the ski industry, adaptive skiers and agency officials, including representatives from the Department of Justice, the USDA Forest Service, and the Architectural Transportation Barriers Compli-ance Board (the Access Board).

1.0 Introduction

Development of Programmatic Guidelines -- Process

This document is in draft format. It has not been reviewed by the Department of Justice or the USDA Forest Service. It reflects the output of meetings which took place on 7 December 1996 and 6 December 1997 in conjunction with the Ski Spectacular at Breckenridge, Colorado. Adaptive sports equipment manufacturers, chairlift manufacturers, ski area operators, skiers with disabilities, adaptive sports program directors, and federal organizational representatives participated at these meetings. The minutes of the 7 December 1996 meeting have been reviewed by the Disability Rights section of the Department of Justice. Feedback was received that, "generally, the 12/7/96 minutes accurately summarize the programmatic obligations of ski areas under the ADA."

It is encouraged that each ski area create a written transition plan outlining how they will implement physical and programmatic guidelines for access over the next five years. The time period for implementation of programmatic guidelines for ski area access has come. Whatever is provided to the average skier needs to also be provided to the adaptive skier.

This document attempts to define the programmatic requirements of ski areas for access. Written comment is appreciated and solicited. Please provide justification, rationale and case situations that may be of benefit in shaping the scope of this document. Please cite the relevant page and line number(s) when appropriate. Comments should be submitted to: Beneficial Designs, Inc., 2240 Meridian Blvd, Suite C, Minden, NV 89423. E-mail comments can be directed to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

Providing Access is Good Business

Offering services and accessibility to people with disabilities brings in the families of those people as well. An average of 2.5 customers accompany skiers with disabilities, purchasing instruction, lift tickets, food services, and lodging. Skiers with disabilities provide posi-tive role models for other skiers.

Disability Statistics

Every year, there are:

  • 2 million traumatic brain injuries
  • 250,000 people are becoming amputees
  • 10,000 spinal cord injuries resulting in permanent impairment
  • 12,000 - 14,000 new cases of blindness
  • 150,000 babies born with birth defects

Disabled Athletes Already in Sports

  • 1 million athletes in Special Olympics
  • 2500 registered blind athletes
  • 3200 athletes from 104 countries competed in the 1996 Paralympics
  • Many more in various programs

2.0 Background Federal Accessibility Law

Federal laws covering accessibility include the ADA Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

The Americans with Disabilities Act includes Titles I -- IV. The two sections that are most relevant to ski areas include Title II, which covers State and local government entities, and Title III, which covers public accommodations and programs open to the public.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 applies to all federal programs or facilities and institutions or concessionaires receiving benefits of federal programs or facilities. These programs must comply with the Uniform Fed-eral Accessibility Standards (UFAS) which are similar to the ADA Accessibility Guidelines.

Ski areas on private land must comply with Title 3 of the ADA. The term "readily achievable" is applied to existing facilities. The ADA Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) apply to all new construction.

Ski areas run by State and local entities must be physically and programmatically accessible in their entirety and must comply with Title II of the ADA.

Ski areas on Forest Service land must comply with State and local regulations. They must comply with section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and they must be physically and programmatically accessible in their entirety.

Undue Hardship

This applies under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The resources of an entity in its entirety are considered in a discrimination claim. The courts would consider the ski area's history as an accessible institution, both physically and programmatically.

3.0 Guidelines

3.1 Skier Code

The Skier Responsibility Code is to be applied to skiers with and without disabilities without discrimination as follows:

Stay in control.

People ahead have the right of way.

Stop only when visible from above without obstructing the trail.

Look uphill and yield to other skiers.

Use devices to prevent runaway equipment.

Observe all posted signs and warnings.

The skier must know how to load, ride, and unload the lift safely.

Rationale: Skiers with disabilities must comply with the skier code just like any other skier. If an adaptive skier is not capable of staying in control on the hill, the ski area has a right to pull their lift ticket and remove them from the mountain. Similarly if the skier does not have the capability to load and unload the lift safely, they can be removed from the mountain as well.

Ski Slope Access

If a skier needs a guide, personal assistant or interpreter to negotiate the lift, to ski in control, or to meet the conditions of the Skier Safety Code, they must be allowed to ski at the ski area.

Rationale: An adaptive skier may use a guide, personal assistant or interpreter for purposes of skiing in control, and this shall be considered acceptable.

Lift Access

An adaptive skier has the right to use a guide, personal assistant, or interpreter for purposes of safely loading and unloading from the lift. In this case, the guide, personal assistant or interpreter is a component of that adaptive skier's equipment.

3.2 Performance Requirements

A ski area is not allowed to require a competency exam for either skiing or riding the lift.

Rationale: This would be considered discrimination since all skiers are not required to pass a competency exam.

Special Requirements

A ski area is not allowed to require skiers with a disability to fasten themselves to the lift when skiing independently.

Note: Ski school instruction policies with regard to adaptive skiers have a right to vary on this issue.

Rationale: Since the instructor is often assuming more responsibility for the skier in this situation, the instructors method for insuring that the adaptive skier can load, ride and un-load the lift safely might be to use a tether line or safety retention strap.

3.3 Rental

Rental of Adaptive Equipment

Standardized adaptive equipment shall be available for rent with advance notice at a reasonable cost. Advance notice might be on the order of 48 hours to one week (168 hours). Standardized adaptive equipment would include, at a minimum, one of each of the following items: mono ski, sit or bi ski, out-riggers, ski tip stabilizer, and a pair of blind bibs.

Suggested Ways of Providing Standardized Adaptive Rental Equipment

Ski shops at the host area could own and rent the adaptive equipment.

An adaptive program at the host ski area could own and rent the adaptive equipment.

An adaptive program at a nearby ski area is contracted to provide adaptive equipment at the host ski area.

An adaptive equipment manufacturer rents or leases equipment to the host ski area with 48 to 168 hours notice.

Standardized Rental Equipment Insurance Issues

It has been reported that some insurance carriers currently require instruction with adaptive equipment rentals. Some ski areas own the adaptive equipment used by the adaptive program to enable insurance coverage for rental.

Note: Insurance carriers providing coverage for rental of standard alpine ski equipment should also provide coverage for rental of adaptive alpine ski equipment.

3.4 Instruction

Instruction must be available at all levels for adaptive skiers. A specific adaptive program is not required. Advance notice can be required for all levels of adaptive instruction (48 to 168 hours).

Existing PSIA Certified instructors can take a one to two day PSIA Adaptive Clinic in a specific discipline to obtain the skills needed to provide Level 1 through 3 training to adaptive skiers. PSIA certified adaptive instructors:

  • meet the PSIA ski skill requirements
  • have the required ATS knowledge
  • have the required technical knowledge
  • have the required teaching skills
  • have knowledge about disabilities
  • have the knowledge to set up adaptive equipment

There is an Adaptive division in each of the nine PSIA regions. Each provides education, training, certification. There is also a national adaptive committee meeting every June. PSIA has created a PSIA adaptive training manual. The PSIA Adaptive Chairperson is Gwen Allard, PSIA Eastern. She can be reached at (518) 452-1166.

Instruction for Visually Impaired Skiers

The instructor is ideally the guide for the visually impaired skier. The ski area shall provide a guide for an adaptive lesson at any level. If visually impaired skiers bring their own guide at their own expense, there shall be no lesson or lift charges for the guide.

Instruction for Hearing Impaired Skiers

Ideally, the instructor should be the interpreter for the hearing impaired adaptive skier. The ski area shall provide an interpreter for instruction at any level. If hearing impaired skiers bring their own interpreter at their own expense, there shall be no lesson or lift charges for the interpreter.

Instruction for Sit, Mono and Bi Skiers

Ideally, the instructor generally provides personal assistance needed by the adaptive skier. The ski area shall provide a personal assistant if needed for a lesson at any level. If mobility impaired skiers bring a personal assistant at their own expense, there shall be no lesson or lift charges for the assistant.

Lesson Rates

An adaptive skier should be able to request and pay for a lesson at a group rate, even though the ski area chooses to provide the lesson as a private.

For example, a beginning monoskier would fundamentally alter the structure of a group lesson. It would be advantageous for the ski area to offer private instruction for the monoskier at a group rate until the monoskier reaches level 4. At level 4, the monoskier can be integrated into a group lesson.

Group Lesson Policies

If the ski area has a group lesson policy applying to all skiers that when a limited number of students show up, the length of the lesson is reduced, then this policy could be applied to the adaptive skier lesson as well.

Mainstreaming into Instruction

Mainstreaming an adaptive skier into a level 1 through 3 lesson would fundamentally alter the lesson. However, instruction must be available for level 1 through 3 skiers with disabilities. At level 4 and above, an adaptive skier can be mainstreamed into a group lesson.

If a skier is a level 4 or above skier, he/she may request to be integrated into a group lesson. The ski area would still be required to provide a guide, assistant or interpreter. However, if the adaptive skier has a guide, assistant, or interpreter, he/she would be accommodated in the lesson with no extra lesson or lift fees for the guide, assistant or interpreter.

If the ski area chose to mainstream level 4 and above skiers with guides, assistants, or interpreters into mainstream instruction, they may do so.

Restrictions on Lesson Accommodation

For adaptive skiers using sit skis, mono skis, and bi skis, a weight limit may be set at 225 lbs., including the equipment.

Instruction using Common Types of Adaptive Equipment

Instruction for using common types of adaptive equipment shall be provided.

3.5 Guides, Assistance and Inter-preters

Visually impaired skiers use guides, mobility impaired skiers use personal assistants, and hearing impaired skiers use interpreters.

Need for Personal Assistant

Availability of personal assistants for a fee to adaptive skiers is encouraged at ski areas. Availability should be provided at a reasonable cost to adaptive skiers with advanced notice (48 to 168 hours).

Determining the need for a personal assistant is based on the person's function or lack of function.

The function capability of adaptive skiers varies from skier to skier. Not all adaptive skiers can ski independently even though they may be advanced level skiers. The ability to ski independently is determined by a number of factors, including:

  • the skier's ability to load on or off the lift,
  • the skier's ability to maintain position on the chairlift.
  • the skier's ability to get into and out of his/her adaptive equipment
  • the skier's ability to adjust his/her equipment
  • the skier's ability to right him/herself from a fall

Availability of Guides for Visually Impaired Skiers

Provision of guides for skiers with visual impairments is encouraged.

Note: Guides should be available with advance notice at a reasonable cost. The price for a private lesson is not a reasonable cost. The price for a group lesson might be considered a reasonable cost. Advance notice might be on the order of 48 to 168 hours.

For skiers who need assistance in the form of a guide, assistant, or interpreter, that assistance is considered an essential part of the adaptive skier\'s ability to function effectively and safely in the ski area environment. The guide, assistant, or interpreter is essentially an extension of the skier\'s adaptive equipment.

3.6 Discounts

A discount is not required for skiers with a disability. An adaptive skier's guide, personal assistant, or interpreter shall be able to ski free. If discounts are provided, requirement of proof of disability is allowed.

Special Discounts

If a discount is provided, the ski area may require proof of qualification for that discount.

Proof of Disability

A "handicapped" parking placard, a driver\'s license noting restrictions, a Golden Access Passport (issued by the Department of the Interior for accessing National Parks), or a physician\'s statement regarding the status of disability are forms of ID that are often used to identify a person with a disability. Disability is defined within the Americans with Disabilities Act as a loss of one or more basic functions, or a condition that substantially impairs a major life function.

3.7 Ski Storage

If provided, ski storage should be available for adaptive skiers to store their adaptive equipment or wheelchairs while they are skiing.

3.8 Day Care

Children with disabilities must be accepted unless they would fundamentally alter the nature of the program.

Note: A document entitled "Commonly Asked Questions about Child Care Centers and the ADA." is available from the Department of Justice at the following address:

Disability Rights Section
P. O. Box 66738
Washington, DC 20035-6738
(202) 616-2314 (voice/TDD)
(202) 307-1198 (fax)

3.9 Food Services

The ski area is not required to provide for special diets.

3.10 Transportation

When provided to other skiers, accessible transportation shall be provided for all Title II and 504 entities. Provision of parking to elimi-nate the need for shuttle access is an acceptable solution in many cases.

Note: All other entities purchasing vehicles should contact the U.S. Department of Transportation at (202) 366-1656 for further information on how the ADA transportation requirements apply.

3.11 Lodging/Accommodations

If owned by the ski area, access shall be provided in compliance with ADAAG or UFAS requirements for places of public accommodation for Title II and Section 504 entities.

3.12 Training

For Title II and Section 504 entities, ski areas are required to integrate training pertaining to adaptive skiers within all other training.