Adaptive Snowboarding - What's it like?

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Adaptive Snowboarding - What's it like?

March 26, 2019

What is it like to snowboard with a prosthetic leg?  Llywelyn Sponge Williams, from North Wales, had the opportunity to find out recently with an individual session at Chillfactore in Manchester where DSUK (Disability Snowsport UK) offers lessons.


Llywelyn, 21, is an Abersoch surfer who lost a leg in car accident. 

Here is Llewelyn’s account:

“I had never snowboarded before, only mono skied with two outriggers so I thought why not give this a go. That day I packed my old prosthetic that I don’t use that often because of the pain it causes to walk on, but as this could open doors for me I tried the leg on again that didn’t fit my stump properly as it was an old mould. 

“We put the snowboard-boot on and off we went to the slope. It was weird enough just walking with it with a crutch in one hand to keep the balance especially on the snow!  We first tried to move around with my prosthetic strapped in to try and slide and turn on the flat.  Not much luck with that as my stump is small for the weight of the leg and board so... we decided to walk up the slope a bit and just see if I could strap myself in and slide down with help off my instructor, Mel.

“It was the weirdest feeling ever sliding down a slope trying to keep balanced and having no idea how much pressure I was meant to move onto my prosthetic as obviously I put all my weight on my real leg. But it went OK so we then moved up to the top of the small slope and tried again. Sadly, the prosthetic I have is not made for walking and every time I tried to go heel-side my leg had no hold and collapsed on me.  That made it difficult to move forward with the lesson. 

“I am grateful to Disability Snowsports UK and Mel Abba for working with me and let’s try get the right leg/equipment for next time and move forward with this!”

Of course, there will always be an amount of trial and error when using adaptive kit.  Since his session coaches have puthim in contact with similar amputee snowboarders who will be able to provide guidance and answer his questions.

Frustratingly there’s still no funding available for grassroots snowboarding. Lessons are normally self-funded through DSUK.

Si Nicholson, the GB Snowsport Para Snowboard Head Coach, said,  

“There are various opportunities that can support Llywelyn’s development, but they are self-funded. 

“The emphasis is very much on the individual to develop their riding skills. I hope in the next few months this will change. GB Snowsport is working very hard with the Home Nations to establish a strong and sustainable pathway for all winter sports, especially para snowboard. 

“Para snowboarding is an exciting and fast growing sport. There are many opportunities to learn through DSUK schools. The team is always looking for driven and passionate snowboarders. Our current team are just about to compete at the World Champs in Pyha, Finland. They are all working hard to prepare for the next Paralympics in Beijing 2022.”

Pete Harris, the Snowsport Wales Adaptive Awareness tutor, said, “Llywelyn’s drive and spirit towards outdoor sports already includes being able to mono ski both on artificial slopes and snow. He was one of my most receptive skiers. I wish him all the best wherever life takes him”


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