Para alpine skiing and para snowboarding: the French Paralympic Team in action, trailblazers for future champions

Wednesday, 9 march 2022

In their capacity as partners of the French Paralympic Team, Groupe BPCE and its companies are supporting all the French athletes currently competing in Beijing.

The para alpine skiing and para snowboarding competitions started with a French delegation of 9 athletes and 2 guides in para alpine skiing and 4 athletes in para snowboarding, a team that has already clocked up its fair share of medals. Pictures of these exploits can inspire other disabled people, and encourage them to dream of joining the French team in the disciplines of para ski and para snowboarding.

Cédric Amafroi-Broisat, a former member of the French team, winner of the men’s Super-G World Cup in 2002 and currently President of the Chamonix parasport section and coordinator of the French Cup in these disciplines, explains how:

 “Any disabled child or adult who dreams of reaching the highest levels can aspire to become a member of the French team. To do this, you really have to love skiing and outdoor sports in general, and love competitions and the fact of pitting yourself against others. Secondly – and this is something the skiers of the French team frequently tell us – they’re really grateful to their entourage because reaching a high level means making a lot of sacrifices. You have to be prepared to spend hours training on your own or in a team.

 There are different ways to discover para alpine skiing or para snowboarding: various committees and clubs organize discovery days or talent spotting sessions; even the companies that manufacture prostheses organize discovery weekends and offer tailor-made prosthetic devices. You can also take part in competitions. I’m a coordinator of the French Cup that organizes six rounds during the winter. All the members of the French team have followed this path.

  There are two disciplines in para snowboarding: ski cross and the banked slalom. The ski cross is a high-speed race with big-air jumps with 3 or 4 people competing simultaneously. Beyond the fact that it’s a timed race, you have to like being in direct competition with your opponents. The banked slalom is an individual event that is practiced one on one. Each para snowboarder goes down a separate winding track with turns banked on the left or on the right as necessary; the winner is the first one to reach at the bottom. It’s a really enjoyable, fun-filled discipline but competitors can’t be visually impaired or confined to wheelchairs.

 This isn’t the case in para skiing where athletes in wheelchairs can compete on ‘sit-skis.’ It’s an incredibly wild sensation because you ski very close to the ground and really feel you’re traveling fast!

In any case, you have to enjoy sliding sensations; you also need to be extremely committed. But, above all, you have to have those innate qualities shared by all high-level athletes, irrespective of whether you’re able-bodied or disabled. With para-athletes, you put someone on sit-skis and they’ll immediately find it easy to pass inside the gates. But then, like all high-level athletes, you have to be in extremely good physical shape.

We’re naturally supporting the members of the French skiing team in Beijing because their results and the media coverage devoted to them will make people more aware of the sport and fire their enthusiasm… 5 hours of TV coverage every day can make young people dream of joining the French team. That’s what happened to me. I had an accident when I was 16 years old and had a leg amputated below the knee. I’d already been taking part in skiing competitions before my accident. They put me back on skis in the rehabilitation center and that was when I started to pursue the goal of joining the French team one day… I managed to do so and was a member between the ages of 17 and 37… This enabled me to grow as an individual… Everything you experience as a member of the French team allows you to move forward and accept your handicap…”