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Snowsports for disabled athletes gradually developed after World War II, as large numbers of injured soldiers and civilians tried to return to their skiing activities. It was in the 1970s that multi-disability skiing competitions began, and in 1974 the first world championships were held in Grand Bornand in France, featuring Alpine (Downhill) and Nordic (Cross-Country) skiing for amputee and visually impaired athletes.
With both men and women able to compete in team and individual events, the first Paralympic Winter Games were held in 1976 in Örnsköldsvik, Sweden and New Zealand entered the second Games in 1980 in Geilo, Norway.
These days, Snowsports also includes snowboarding and there is a wide array of adaptive equipment to suit all physically disabled individuals. Whether you are on skis or a snowboard, all these sports require a reasonable level of fitness and agility. Some of the sports, like Downhill skiing, also require a good head for speed and a high level of skill - especially for those who are aiming for the top.
Paralympians and other elite athletes train hard on the slopes, and have developed a high degree of muscle control, fitness and concentration to be the best in their field. For the recreational participant, there are also plenty of opportunities to get out in the snow and enjoy a great day with friends or family on one of the many mountains around the country.
Snow Sports NZ is the national advocate for adaptive snowsports, supporting programmes on New Zealand's ski slopes and developing adaptive snowsports to remove participation barriers and encourages people with functional impairments to get involved.