USDSSA - History

Seeing all the skiers, snowboarders, and non-skiers at the Breckenridge USDSSA convention makes one wonder how this organization came about. Was it founded for deaf people to get together to share their love for skiing? Or, was it a need to get organized in order to sponsor races for deaf skiers? A few of the founding members of USDSSA were at Breckenridge: Richard Crossen, James Liese, Betty Moers, and Jerry Moers. This was an opportunity to record the history of USDSSA while some of the original members are still around.

The first national meeting of deaf skiers was held at Park City, Utah on March 11, 1968, with 45 people in attendance, and chaired by Arthur Valdez. The new members agreed that dues would be $3.00 per year for individuals and $5.00 for couples. Since the constitution and by-laws were not yet written, the people present elected acting officers; Shanny Mow as president and Patricia Insley as secretary. Jerome Moers and Simon Carmel gave talks on why there was a need for a deaf skiers organization. A committee was set up to write the constitution and by-laws, and the original name of the association was National Deaf Skiers Association. The next day, on March 12, the first formal officers were elected; 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.


The second national meeting was at Snowmass, Colorado on February 18, 1970. The constitution committee decided on the name United State Deaf Skiers Association, USDSA. It was also decided to have meetings every two years, and that dues were to defray postal, office supplies, and medals expenses. A board of directors was set up, consisting of the officers and regional directors. It was decided that half of the registration fees will go to the group hosting the convention, to defray their expenses in setting up the convention. The members voted that USDSA would be part of American Athletic Association of the Deaf (AAAD, now known as USA Deaf Sports Federation) in order to participate in the Winter World Games for the Deaf, and to bid to host the Winter World Games for the Deaf at Lake Placid, New York in 1975. The members ratified the new constitution and by-laws at Snowmass. The first races were held at this convention, with the slalom and giant slalom at Aspen Snowmass, and the downhill race at Sunlight Ski Area. There were 124 people in attendance at the 1970 convention. Art Kruger gave a presentation on the need to be affiliated with the AAAD, because AAAD is the only USA organization recognized by the international governing body of deaf sports, Commite International des Sports des Sourds (CISS). The first USDSA newsletter was written and mailed out by Shirley Fritz.

The third national meeting was held at North Conway, NH on February 19, 1972. By then, the biennial event was called USDSA Ski Week Convention. The surprise was that hearing people learned about USDSA organizing a national ski week program and later established their own United States Ski Association convention. Cross-country skiers were added to the association at this convention. Here, it was agreed to have the travel expenses of the three top USDSA officers; president, vice-president, and secretary-treasurer split 50-50 between the USDSA and the group hosting the convention. USDSA booths were set up at ski shows, with USDSA pins made and sold to support the deaf ski team. Ski patrols were encouraged to carry pens and pads so they could communicate with deaf skiers. Tom Hassard was chosen to be the 1973 Deaf Ski Team director. USDSA was 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 but remained $5.00 for couples.

At the 1972 convention, another director was added, the Central Director. A newsletter editor was chosen. The USDSA logo, of skiers formed in a circle, was voted on and registered as a trademark at the U.S. Patent Office, good for 20 years. Tax reports were filed as a non-profit organization in 1973, in order to receive tax-exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).


At the 1998 USDSA convention at Jackson Hole, WY, the membership approved changing the organization name to U.S. Deaf Skiers and Snowboarders Association, USDSSA, to accommodate the growing popularity of snowboarding among young deaf people. Later the same year, it was changed to U.S. Deaf Ski & Snowboard Association. Also to accommodate snowboarders, the logo was changed to a mountain range with the organization name USDSSA formed through it with ski and snowboard tracks. The AAAD changed its name to USA Deaf Sports Federation, USADSF. The East, Central, and West regional directors positions were dropped and replaced with directors of the different snow sports represented; Director of Alpine Skiing, Director of Snowboarding, and Director of Cross-Country Skiing.

The bylaws, which were set up in 1968, were revised in 1982 and 1984, to accommodate the growing changes in the association. In 1984, it was agreed that the newsletter would be published three times a year and new rules were set that those who wanted to make a bid to host the Ski Week Convention must submit a check for $100 and letters from the resort and ski club or group which agreed to host the Convention. The association TAX ID number was 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 of the deaf but now there are only six (editor’s note: there are now only 3). To help defray the raising costs of running the organization, 2-year dues were increased to $15 for individuals, $28 for couples, and $10 for students. In 1995, newsletter editor Edward Ingham changed the newsletter name to “The Deaf Skier.” The name was changed again in 1998, to “The Deaf Skier & Snowboarder” to include snowboarders. In 1994, 2-year membership dues were increased to $25 for individuals and $40 for couples.

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

2019 marks 51 years since the first national meeting of deaf skiers in 1968; and we have grown, as an association, by leaps and bounds. Remaining true to the original dream of our founding members, we continue to provide young deaf skiers and snowboarders with opportunities to train and compete, and proudly continue to host the week-long biennial ASL Snowbomb event for our snow-riding enthusiasts.