NEW OPPORTUNITIES FOR ATHLETES OF ALL AGES AND ABILITIES

Created: 18 February 2020


Zach Elder, Kim Raymer, Sara Wiltse, Devon Keir, Bob Basil, Frank Cabrera and the NAC Team Flyers

The United States of America Snowboard and Freeski Association (USASA) has partnered with the National Ability Center (NAC) to promote and provide a new level of experience for athletes in snowboarding and freeskiing with physical and intellectual disabilities. For the first time ever, athletes with physical and intellectual limitations now have the opportunity to compete in USASA Rail Jam events through exhibition-style events. The USASA has consistently pioneered opportunities for athletes with disabilities over the years, offering boardercross events for physically disabled and slalom and giant slalom events for both physical and intellectually disabled athletes. As the leader in providing events across the United States for Freeski and Snowboarding, the USASA has continued to offer events for all abilities and now has partnered with the experts in the field to ensure a new level of experience for athletes with disabilities continues. 

“The goal is to bridge these gaps by working with the experts in the field to embrace athletes of all abilities across the country. There is this amazing community of USASA series directors running events all across the country and we want to be sure all events are available to everyone.” Mike Mallon USASA Executive Director

As part of this new initiative, the USASA has taken guidance from the Special Olympics in a premier exhibition boardercross event last season at the 30th annual USASA National Championships. This season, USASA is working with local organizations such as the National Ability Center in Park City, UT and the Adaptive Sports Foundation in Windham, NY. Through this collaboration, the USASA has been hosting five exhibition-style events in the 2019-2020 season alongside existing USASA regional events.


“It is fantastic to be working with the USASA on providing opportunities for athletes of all abilities. “ said Sara Beaudry-Wiltse, Competition Program Manager at the National Ability Center. “Our athletes are working hard and are very excited for these events. We are eager to grow this ID class and provide options for this group of athletes within the USASA.”

As part of the USASA Catskills Mountain Series led by Bob Basil, in conjunction with the Adaptive Sports Foundation, USASA hosted the first-ever USASA Intellectually Disabled (ID) Rail Jam on December 27, 2019.  A Windham local and past X game medalist and 13 Time USASA National Champion, Zach Elder was part of this groundbreaking event. Zach is known as a leader in breaking down barriers in snowboarding for people with intellectual development differences. As Zach’s skills have progressed, he has participated in the USASA National Championships each year at Copper Mountain, CO. He has won thirteen Adaptive Category National Championships in Slalom, Giant Slalom, and Boardercross. Zach also participates in Special Olympics and he is the current New York State Special Olympics champion in Slalom and Giant Slalom for snowboarding. Most notably he has had the opportunity to compete at the X Games in Aspen, CO, three times in Special Olympics Unified Snowboarding, taking home both a bronze and a silver medal. He is a co-founder, with his parents and his first snowboard coach, of the Ride2Live Project, an initiative to introduce and teach snowboarding to children and young adults with autism and other intellectual development differences.

January 24th saw the first event of this kind led by the USASA Big Mountain West Series and series director Kim Raymer.  East and west forces united on Friday, February 7th, in Park City, Utah for the third stop. This event was also held at the brand new Woodward Park City facility in “Red Gerard’s Backyard”, as part of the USASA Big Mountain West Series.  At this Unified Exhibition Rail Jam Event, athletes like Zach and other team athletes from the NAC (Park City, UT ) ”Team Flyers” traveled to compete and have now secured their own little piece of history. There were high fives and shared joy as all got together to plan what could happen next and share in the excitement of competition.

“Five years ago, this was all a crazy dream held by a brand new coach. My big hope was to have my athletes ready to hit a box… someday. The 10-year goal was to develop a competitive classification for freestyle athletes with cognitive disabilities. And here we are, with 180s and board slides and dreams of backflips. One day, there will be teams like ours scattered across the country and Team Flyers will have more than just themselves to compete against. But the distinction of being first— that will always live here.”  Devon Keir, Head Team Flyers Coach at the National Ability Center.

USASA will culminate this season's efforts with a showcase event in conjunction with their 31st USASA National Championships at Copper Mtn Colorado.  All athletes who participated in these exhibition events will be qualified to take part in the 31st annual USASA National Championships Exhibition Rail Jam and Boardercross.  This two-week-long festival is the largest of it’s kind and celebrates the season of success for all athletes across the country.  On March 29th the ID Boardercross exhibition will take place alongside Olympians and current World Champions in conjunction with the FIS Nor-am final.  Later that evening the first Cog ID Exhibition will kick off the first night of Rail Jam excitement at the newly designed Rail Jam venue.

Full Schedule of 2019-2020 Unified Exhibition Events

USASA Catskills Mountain Series 
Windham, NY Exhibition RJ Dec 27 - 
Belleayre, NY Exhibition BX January 25
Windham, NY SO SL and GS Unified February 1st
Windham, NY Exhibition BX February22-23

USASA Big Mountain West
Woodward Park City,  Exhibition RJ January 24th 
Woodward Park City,  Exhibition RJ February 7th 

For information on this and other USASA happenings or to register please visit usasa.org. 

About the National Ability Center  

The National Ability Center provides world-class adaptive recreation and Splore outdoor adventures for individuals and families of differing abilities, physical, cognitive and developmental, including competitive athletes, youth, veterans and more. Rooted in Park City, UT for over 30 years, with additional facilities in Salt Lake City and Moab, the National Ability Center empowers participants by building self-esteem, confidence and lifetime skills through inclusive programming and activities such as alpine and nordic skiing, snowboarding, horseback riding, cycling, swimming, rafting, archery, among others. The National Ability Center is globally recognized as a leader in adaptive sports and is one of only 12 Gold U.S. Paralympic Sports Clubs. For more information, visit www.discovernac.org.

Adaptive Sports Foundation 

The Adaptive Sports Foundation provides profound and life-changing experiences for individuals with physical and cognitive disabilities and chronic illness through outdoor physical activity, community, education, and support. In 2018-2019, ASF provided over 3,400 lessons to individuals with disabilities and the organization’s 260 volunteers donated 26,010 hours of service. To get involved or to learn more, visit adaptivesportsfoundation.org.

Proud Partners of USASA

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