U.S. Ski and Snowboard adds Paralympic Alpine, snowboard teams

Brenna Huckaby
Brenna Huckaby

U.S. Ski and Snowboard is integrating Para Alpine skiers and snowboarders onto its roster in the latest move to unite the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Movements.

“The integration of our internally managed Para Alpine and snowboard teams within U.S. Ski and Snowboard is a monumental step for inclusion, development and growth of the sports,” Julie Dussliere, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee Chief of Paralympics and Internally Managed Sports, said in a press release. “We believe the governance transfer will serve as an important model for more national governing bodies to follow in the years to come.”

The USOPC managed Para Alpine skiing and snowboarding before Tuesday’s announcement.

U.S. Ski and Snowboard provides its athletes resources including elite coaching, sports science and medicine and access to the USANA Center of Excellence, a training facility in Park City, Utah.

Erik Leirfallom will lead the teams as the newly named Para sport director. Leirfallom has been the high performance Para Alpine race coach at Park City’s National Ability Center since 2016 and was a U.S. Para Alpine ski team coach from 2007-10.

At last year’s Winter Paralympics, the U.S. earned one Alpine skiing medal (Thomas Walsh‘s slalom silver) and and four snowboarding medals, including Brenna Huckaby‘s banked slalom gold.

The ski and snowboard move comes four years after the U.S. Olympic Committee changed its name to the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) to promote inclusion.

Then in 2020, Olympic Day, annually celebrated worldwide on June 23 (the birthdate of the modern Olympics), was in the U.S. renamed Olympic and Paralympic Day.

In 2021, the Tokyo Games marked the first for which Olympians and Paralympians received the same prize money from the USOPC for medals — $37,500 for gold, $22,500 for silver and $15,000 for bronze — increasing Paralympic payouts as much as 400 percent.

U.S. Ski and Snowboard joins other national governing bodies for Olympic sports that also manage Paralympic sports, such as USA Hockey (sled hockey) and USA Volleyball (sitting volleyball).

The USOPC manages some other Paralympic sports, such as swimming and track and field.

The USOPC also manages Paralympic Nordic skiing, which includes two sports that have different national governing bodies for the Olympics. Cross-country skiing is part of U.S. Ski and Snowboard, while biathlon is under U.S. Biathlon. Paralympic Nordic skiing is in discussion for future involvement with U.S. Ski and Snowboard.

Other Paralympic sports have separate organizations, such as the National Wheelchair Basketball Association.

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