How blind people ski

Downhill skiing is a team sport in the Paralympics. Visually impaired skiers hurtle down the mountain at highway speeds, guided by another skier, who goes a few seconds ahead and calls back changes in direction and terrain via radio headset.

Visually impaired ski racer Danelle D'Aquanni Umstead says:

It is a "visually impaired team," not an athlete and their guide. Guiding is not something just anyone can do. As a guide you have to be just as committed, ski faster and also be able to turn around at any given moment to look behind you at the other athlete when at high speeds. This is not an easy task, and takes a lot of training as a team. Finding the right guide is definitely the hardest part for a visually impaired skier. To be able to trust in that person one hundred percent, and find a guide who has the same goals as you.


  1. As Polly-Anna as this may sound, and as a very amateur skier, I have to say that’s f-ing amazing. I had no idea that there was even a category for blind skiers. Makes my personal triumphs seem lame in comparison.

  2. I live in Whistler so I see blind skiers, one legged skiers, and sit-skiers all the time. Great stuff, I love it. The adaptive sports program (WASP) is quite popular up here. The really cool thing to me is the visually impaired biathlon: there’s a guide for the skiing part and some sort of sound-based set up for the shooting part.

    A bunch of guys hauled a sit-skier up Spanky’s Ladder earlier this year. Spanky’s is a steep climb that leads to some crazy double and triple black terrain. I was pretty impressed that a sit-skier was doing that terrain.

    In the summer I see one legged mountain bikers around town and paraplegic quad-cyclers in the downhill bike park. I don’t know about visually impaired mountain bikers though, I haven’t seen any.

  3. There’s some stuff on the visually impaired biathlon here:

    Made my day when I heard about this event.

  4. Wouldn’t it be easier to substitute their labrador for a husky and just get pulled down the slope.

    1. I can’t tell if you’re joking. Under the assumption that you’re serious, no.

      1) You can’t ‘substitute’ a seeing-eye dog. The dog has to be trained for a year, and the dog and owner have to be trained together after being paired up and work as a team.

      2) A regular skiier goes at 60km an hour downhill or more. He’d be dragging the dog, not the other way around.

      3) You can’t use a lead to direct someone for downhill skiing anyways. When the leader makes a turn, and the follower is 10′ behind, the follower CAN’T TURN YET – turning too soon (or too late) is potentially catastrophic. You can use a teather with a small child learning to ski, but in that case, the child goes first, and the adult acts as a 180-lb dead weight to slow the child down to controllable speeds. It’s completely different.

  5. I was going to make a comment about the wisdom of a visually impaired biathlon, till I realized that they’re probably more accurate shots than your average redneck full of ‘shine, and we let *them* have firearms. ;)

    (And I know of what I speak – the moonshine capitol of the US is 2 counties over from here…)

  6. Heh.. Odd timing as a I made this video on How to guide a blind hiker last weekend

    From my phone and not super great quality, and not planned…

    In all seriousness though, we were part of a group who set a world record for the most blind hikers to reach the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro in June 2009.

    Good quality video:

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