The National Sports Center for the Disabled enables anyone, no matter the disability or condition, to hit the slopes through specialized equipment, programs and trainers. Not to mention 34 of the center’s athletes competed in the Sochi 2014 Paralympics.

Established in 1970, the National Sports Center for the Disabled (NSCD) has grown to be one of the leading therapeutic recreation agencies in the world. Each year, more than 3,000 children and adults with disabilities partake in dozens of sports and recreational programs, from skiing/snowboarding to racing to Nordic hut trips.


NSCD was founded as a one-time ski lesson for children with amputations for the Children’s Hospital of Denver. Today, based out of Winter Park Resort and Denver’s Sports Authority Field at Mile High, its mission is to “enable the human spirit through therapeutic sports and recreation.”

blind skier

Blind skier and guide at Wells Fargo Cup


NSCD President and CEO Becky Zimmerman (who started as a volunteer ski instructor) said, “Three things set us apart from other recreation agencies:

  1. We offer therapeutic recreation—not just adapted sports—where participants have a stated goal such as using their left leg more or even just making a new friend.
  2. We serve all types of disabilities and diagnoses.
  3. We serve all ages, generally from 5 to 75 years old.”

NSCD gives its participants more than 200 scholarships each year, and 85 percent of its revenue comes from philanthropic gifts, grants, events and sponsorships. A 2,100-square-foot adaptive equipment lab, located at Winter Park Resort, provides customized equipment for varying conditions and disabilities. For example, people who are paralyzed are able to ski by sitting on a special set of skis.


Jasmin Bambur at Sochi

More than 1,200 people make up the NSCD core volunteer group, including specially trained instructors and groups looking for volunteer opportunities. The average duration of volunteerism for a non-profit is approximately two-and-a-half years. NSCD volunteers remain with the organization for an average of more than eight years. Volunteers benefit from eligibility for season passes to Winter Park Resort, pro deals on ski and board equipment, improving personal skiing and/or riding skills and the first-hand experience of helping people with disabilities enjoy the adventures of mountain recreation. The NSCD works with many venues, such as Winter Park Resort, Devils Thumb Ranch, YMCA Snow Mountain Ranch, Carmody Recreation Center, Highlands Ranch Recreation Centers, Denver Parks & Recreation Centers, Gold Crown, Bear Creek Lake State Park, Cherry Creek Reservoir and Confluence Park. Ability Clinics (see below) take place at the Pepsi Center, Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Gold Crown, Dick’s Sporting Goods Park and Dove Valley.


Alana Nichols, Sochi athlete

The NSCD Competition Center

The NSCD Competition Training Center has training programs for snow racers of all abilities, even at the elite level. The NSCD had 34 athletes compete in the 2014 Paralympic Games in Sochi, Russia. Training programs are for alpine, cross-country and snowboard competitions. The NSCD Competition Center also uses the Fraser Valley Recreation Center with customized preparation for the season’s races and strength training.


Jamie Stanton at Sochi

The 39th Wells Fargo Ski Cup took place Feb. 21-23, 2014. This is an annual fundraiser for the NSCD where three races take place over a three-day weekend: the Mazda Corporate Cup, Denver Health Kids Snowplow Sprint and World Disabled Invitational.


NSCD offers a variety of therapeutic sports and recreation to choose from. Winter: alpine ski, snowboard, cross-country ski, Nordic hut trips, snowshoeing and ski racing Indoor: soccer, lacrosse, rock-climbing and kayak lessons Summer: rafting, kayaking, canoeing, sailing, cycling, fishing, therapeutic horseback riding, mountain biking, camping, rock climbing and a variety of specialized summer camps

1 leg skier

Skier at Wells Fargo Ski Cup

Ability Clinics Ability Clinics partner with Denver pro sport teams to provide free, interactive clinics that feature sport drills adapted to individuals ages 5 and older who have any type of disability. The pro teams include Colorado Avalanche (hockey), Denver Nuggets (basketball), Colorado Outlaws (lacrosse), Colorado Rapids (soccer), Denver Broncos (football) and Colorado Rockies (baseball).


Heidi Jo at Sochi

Custom Group Programs

The NSCD provides custom group programs, where groups can do Winter Park Resort activities such as an alpine slide, mini golf, human maze, trampoline bungees and climbing walls. Groups can also enjoy river rafting/inflatable kayaking, rock climbing, canoeing/kayaking, backpacking, camping, hiking, cycling, mountain biking, horseback riding, paddle boarding, fishing, chairlift riding and geocaching.


Team up with fellow military veterans for a Paralympic experience like no other. Paralympic sports may include: archery, boccia, canoe/kayak, cycling, goal ball, judo, rowing, wheelchair tennis and wheelchair rugby. To see a complete list of programs, click here. NSCD doesn’t just allow people with disabilities to participate in activities and sports. Zimmerman said, “Every day is an inspiration.” She went on to say, according to an annual survey of NSCD participants, the top-listed improvement after being a part of the organization was confidence and self-esteem.   By Lauren Reiniger