Para-Nordic skiing is the sport of cross-country skiing and biathlon for participants and athletes with a physical/intellectual impairment as defined by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC). It is a sport which is accessible by all ages and abilities either individually or in a group setting. Cross Country Canada (CCC) supports and promotes Para-Nordic skiing at all levels consistent with our overall mission..." to develop and deliver programs designed to achieve international excellence in cross-country skiing."
Para-Nordic skiing is organized and governed by the IPC at the international level and Canada follows IPC rules and regulations. The IPC defines all Para-sport as being for those with a primary impairment that belongs to one of 10 ‘eligible’ impairment types. Generally this means a physical impairment but athletes with an intellectual disability (ID) are now recognized by the IPC and some Para-sports have begun to integrate ID athletes into competition. Para-Nordic competition currently does not include categories for ID athetes. Competition for ID athletes is organized separately by International Sports Federation for para-athletes with an Intellectual Disability. In Canada local grassroots programs may include ID skiers but once a skier gets to a certain level and wants formal programming or to begin competition they should follow the appropriate path for their disability.
"Para" comes from the Greek meaning ("beside" or "alongside"). The current use of the term stems from the Paralympics which refers to being the "parallel" Games to the Olympics. The word Paralympic may have originally been a combination of 'paraplegic' and 'Olympic', however with the inclusion of many different disability groups and the close association with the Olympic Movement, it now means a parallel Olympics to illustrate how the two movements exist side by side. The IPC does not formally use the term "Para-Nordic". Canada has adopted the term which means "parallel" Nordic sport to indicate how it exists side by side with able-bodied Nordic sport.
Para-Nordic skiing includes both cross-country skiing and biathlon. In able-bodied skiing these two disciplines are governed by separate organizations with separate rules and competitions. In Para-Nordic they are both organized and governed by the IPC with integrated competitions and many of the same athletes participating and competing in both sports. For a great summary and more detailed information about both sports and their history please go to the IPC Nordic skiing website.
Cross-country skiing originated in prehistoric times and became widely practiced in the 19th century as a method of winter transportation. Cross-country skiing was only introduced to North America in the 1850s by Norwegian and Swedish immigrants. In Canada, a cross country skiing pioneer called Jackrabbit Johannsen had a major role in stimulating an interest in the sport throughout the country. He organized races, officiated events, and served as a guide, coach, and consultant for numerous skiing organizations, many of which he helped to found. He later helped coach Canada's Olympic team in 1932.
Cross-country skiing appeared at the 1976 Paralympic Winter Games in Örnsköldsvik, Sweden. Men and women used the classical technique in all cross-country distances until skating was introduced by athletes at the Innsbruck 1984 Paralympic Winter Games. Today cross-country skiing is practiced by elite athletes in more than 20 countries.