Our History - how it all started.

The Breckenridge USDSSA convention drew skiers, snowboarders, and non-skiers alike, prompting curiosity about the organization's origins. Was it formed to bring together deaf individuals with a shared passion for skiing? Or was it established to sponsor races for deaf skiers? Fortunately, some of the founding members of USDSSA, such as Richard Crossen, James Liese, Betty Moers, and Jerry Moers, were present at the convention, offering a rare opportunity to document the organization's history while they were still available to share their stories.

The first national meeting of deaf skiers occurred on March 11, 1968, in Park City, Utah, with 45 people in attendance, chaired by Arthur Valdez. While the association's constitution and by-laws were still being developed, the attendees elected acting officers: Shanny Mow as president and Patricia Insley as secretary. Jerome Moers and Simon Carmel provided presentations explaining the need for an organization dedicated to deaf skiers, and a committee was established to draft the constitution and by-laws. Originally known as the National Deaf Skiers Association, the following day, March 12, the association formally elected its first officers, including Joe Cohen as president, Shanny Mow as vice-president, Jerome Moers as secretary-treasurer, Simon Carmel as eastern director, Gary Mortenson as western director, and Patricia Insley as publicity director.

Three skiers on the podium
Snowboard winner on a podium

USDSSA held its second national meeting at Snowmass, Colorado on February 18, 1970. The name of the organization was officially changed from National Deaf Skiers Association to United States Deaf Skiers Association, with the acronym USDSA. The constitution committee, which was set up at the first national meeting, ratified the new constitution and by-laws at Snowmass. The members decided to have meetings every two years and set up a board of directors consisting of the officers and regional directors. The dues were also established to defray postal, office supplies, and medals expenses.

USDSA members voted to affiliate the organization with the American Athletic Association of the Deaf (AAAD), which is now known as USA Deaf Sports Federation. This affiliation allowed USDSA to participate in the Winter World Games for the Deaf and to bid to host the Winter World Games for the Deaf in Lake Placid, New York in 1975. Art Kruger presented on the importance of being affiliated with AAAD because it is the only organization recognized by the international governing body of deaf sports, Commite International des Sports des Sourds (CISS).

The convention at Snowmass also marked the first time that USDSA held ski races, with the slalom and giant slalom events taking place at Aspen Snowmass, and the downhill race held at Sunlight Ski Area. The convention saw 124 attendees, and Shirley Fritz wrote and mailed out the first USDSA newsletter. Additionally, the members voted that half of the registration fees would go to the host group to defray expenses in setting up the convention.

The third USDSA Ski Week Convention was held in North Conway, NH on February 19, 1972. At this convention, it was decided to add cross-country skiers to the association, and the event was now called the USDSA Ski Week Convention. It was also noted that hearing people had learned about USDSA's national ski week program and established their own United States Ski Association convention. To promote the deaf ski team, USDSA booths were set up at ski shows and USDSA pins were made and sold. Ski patrols were encouraged to carry pens and pads to communicate with deaf skiers. Tom Hassard was chosen as the director of the 1973 Deaf Ski Team.

At this convention, the travel expenses of the top three USDSA officers (president, vice-president, and secretary-treasurer) were split 50-50 between USDSA and the group hosting the convention. The association also incorporated into a corporation, and the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) was notified of USDSA’s existence. Dues were raised to $4.00 for singles, while remaining $5.00 for couples.

The convention also saw the addition of a Central Director to the board of directors, and a newsletter editor was chosen. The USDSA logo, featuring skiers formed in a circle, was voted on and registered as a trademark at the U.S. Patent Office, with a validity of 20 years. To receive tax-exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), tax reports were filed in 1973 as a non-profit organization.

Three female snowboarders taking photos together
A male, Jeffrey Lewis, stood up giving a presentationThree male snowboarders taking photos together

In 1998, the USDSA membership approved a name change to U.S. Deaf Skiers and Snowboarders Association, USDSSA, to reflect the increasing popularity of snowboarding among young deaf people. The name was later changed to U.S. Deaf Ski & Snowboard Association, along with a new logo featuring a mountain range with the organization name USDSSA and ski and snowboard tracks. The AAAD also changed its name to USA Deaf Sports Federation, USADSF. To better represent the different snow sports, the East, Central, and West regional directors positions were replaced with directors of Alpine Skiing, Snowboarding, and Cross-Country Skiing.

Since the bylaws were established in 1968, they have been revised in 1982 and 1984 to accommodate the growing changes in the association. In 1984, the newsletter was published three times a year, and new rules were set for bidding to host the Ski Week Convention. Members had to submit a check for $100, along with letters from the resort and ski club or group agreeing to host the Convention. The association TAX ID number was also changed to that of an amateur athletic organization. Plastic ID cards with photos began to be issued to members, with cards issued to deaf members certifying that they are deaf. In 1984 there were 10 active ski clubs for the deaf, but currently only three exist. To defray the rising costs of running the organization, 2-year dues increased to $15 for individuals, $28 for couples, and $10 for students. In 1995, the newsletter's name changed to "The Deaf Skier." It changed again in 1998 to "The Deaf Skier & Snowboarder" to include snowboarders. 2-year membership dues increased to $25 for individuals and $40 for couples in 1994.

The World Games for the Deaf changed its name to Deaf World Games in March 1999, and then to Deaflympics in 2001. The Winter Games are now known as the Winter Deaflympics.

In 2019, the association celebrated its 51st anniversary since the first national meeting of deaf skiers in 1968. The association continues to grow, providing young deaf skiers and snowboarders with opportunities to train and compete. The biennial ASL Snowbomb event remains a week-long tradition for snow-riding enthusiasts. The association proudly continues to honor the original dream of its founding members.