Para-Nordic Skiing 101

An Introduction to Para-Nordic Skiing
By: Cross Country Canada

Para-Nordic skiing is the sport of cross-country skiing and biathlon for participants and athletes with a physical/intellectual impairment as defined by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC). It is a sport which is accessible by all ages and abilities either individually or in a group setting. Cross Country Canada (CCC) supports and promotes Para-Nordic skiing at all levels consistent with our overall mission…” to develop and deliver programs designed to achieve international excellence in cross-country skiing.”

Para-Nordic skiing is organized and governed by the IPC at the international level and Canada follows IPC rules and regulations. The IPC defines all Para-sport as being for those with a primary impairment that belongs to one of  10 ‘eligible’ impairment types. Generally this means a physical impairment but athletes with an intellectual disability (ID) are now recognized by the IPC and some Para-sports have begun to integrate ID athletes into competition. Para-Nordic competition currently does not include categories for ID athletes. Competition for ID athletes is organized separately by the International Sports Federation for para-athletes with an Intellectual Disability. In Canada local grassroots programs may include ID skiers but once a skier gets to a certain level and wants formal programming or to begin competition they should follow the appropriate path for their disability.

“Para” comes from the Greek meaning (“beside” or “alongside”). The current use of the term stems from the Paralympics which refers to being the “parallel” Games to the Olympics. The word Paralympic may have originally been a combination of ‘paraplegic’ and ‘Olympic’, however with the inclusion of many different disability groups and the close association with the Olympic Movement, it now means a parallel Olympics to illustrate how the two movements exist side by side. The IPC does not formally use the term “Para-Nordic”. Canada has adopted the term which means “parallel” Nordic sport to indicate how it exists side by side with able-bodied Nordic sport.

Para-Nordic skiing includes both cross-country skiing and biathlon. In able-bodied skiing these two disciplines are governed by separate organizations with separate rules and competitions. In Para-Nordic they are both organized and governed by the IPC with integrated competitions and many of the same athletes participating and competing in both sports.

Para-Nordic skiing preview video from