Winter sports can pose unique challenges for anyone, but for many who have a physical disability, competing in snowboard races and ski slaloms can seem out of reach. Thanks to the Challenged Athletes Foundation, those dreams are coming true for more and more. And now the organization is expanding its winter sports opportunities and development and is hosting a lineup of new activities including sled hockey, Nordic skiing, downhill skiing and snowboarding. The events will take place across Idaho and Utah beginning Friday, Jan. 20, and finishing up Wednesday, March 8.
According to a CAF press release, more than 21 million Americans have a physical disability, many of whom are eligible to compete in Paralympic sports. But the high cost of adaptive sports equipment and lack of resources can be barriers to entry for those with physical challenges to remain active. That’s where CAF comes in — the foundation is focused and committed to supporting athletes with physical challenges with equipment and a supportive community to enhance their lives through sport. In addition to hosting dozens of camps and clinics, the CAF provides extensive grant funding for adaptive equipment, training, travel and competition expenses. Wilson Dippo, CAF program manager and para Nordic team coach, has been involved with CAF since 2019. His love for the outdoors along with his mechanical engineering background has fueled his hands-on approach. “I noticed a large gap in the available equipment,” Dippo said. “(It was) not very technical … very heavy and kind of clunky. I just saw an opportunity to make improvements to that.” Dippo said he is excited for the upcoming weekend event as 32 adaptive athletes are expected to make an appearance. “It’s an opportunity for adaptive athletes to get their toes wet in a bunch of different sports,” he said. “CAF has completely rewritten the book for adaptive winter sports.”