The Meaning of Cross-Country Skiing for Persons with Significant Visual Impairment: A Phenomenological Study


  • Eileen M. May-West University of New Hampshire
  • Patricia J. Craig University of New Hampshire
  • Allison Wilder University of New Hampshire



Adaptive snow skiing, adaptive sport and recreation, blind and visual impairment, hardiness, phenomenology, recreational therapy


This study examines the meaning of adaptive snow skiing for individuals with significant visual impairment, and explores how hardiness manifests in the contexts in which participants live and recreate. Seidman’s (2013) iterative three-part interviewing method was employed with five adults (three female, two male) from an adaptive cross-country skiing program in the northeast. Findings suggested three major themes. Participants (a) found meaning in being with others and having opportunities to develop relationships with other individuals who had significant visual impairment; (b) valued the freedom of being in the outdoors, the freedom of movement, and the independence that skiing provided; and (c) placed importance on the equality they experienced in their ski experiences and acknowledged the significance of others’ recognition of this equality. Participants’ hardiness was expressed similarly throughout their early lives and skiing experiences, suggesting that hardiness may be developed early on in life and is likely enhanced through recreation experiences. Implications for ways in which community-based therapeutic recreation (TR) programs can respond to the needs of individuals with significant visual impairment are discussed.Subscribe to TRJ

Author Biographies

Eileen M. May-West, University of New Hampshire

Eileen M. May-West, MS, TRS/CTRSMrs. May-West is the Program Manager for Wasatch Adaptive Sports based in Snowbird, UT. Her work experience is in designing and providing year-round outdoor adaptive recreation for youth, adults, and veterans, with a focus on improving independence and active leisure lifestyles.

Patricia J. Craig, University of New Hampshire

Patricia J. Craig, Ph.D., CTRS/LDr. Craig is an Associate Professor in the Department of Recreation Management and Policy at UNH. Her mixed methods research focuses broadly on the impact of RT and adapted recreation/sport interventions on health and wellness outcomes for diverse community-dwelling populations, including people with physical disabilities, chronic health conditions, and Veterans.

Allison Wilder, University of New Hampshire

Allison Wilder, Ph.D., CTRS/LDr. Wilder is an Associate Professor in the Department of Recreation Management and Policy and Faculty Fellow for the Center on Aging and Community Living at the University of New Hampshire. Her research encompasses engaged, active living focusing on the nexus of aging and leisure.