Amy Purdy: A Trailblazer in Para Snowboarding

By Ryan Odeja.

U.S. Ski & Snowboard is highlighting HERoic trailblazers throughout our winter sports, both past and present. A HERoic trailblazer is a woman athlete who has gone above and beyond in her sport, moving the sport forward through grit and determination and inspiring the next generation of women athletes. 

U.S. Para Snowboard team alumna Amy Purdy was one of the first female Para snowboarders, and has used her platform to raise awareness and create opportunities for future generations through her foundation, Adaptive Action Sports. Amy is a HERoic Trailblazer not only for her athletic achievements but for her long-lasting commitments to the adaptive community and winter sports as a whole.

The Beginnings

Amy’s journey to success was not always linear. She grew up in Las Vegas, Nevada with a love for the outdoors, wellness and traveling. When she started snowboarding at 15, she instantly fell in love and spent as much time as she could on the slopes. However, at age 19, Purdy’s life was changed after she fell into septic shock and was placed on life support. The doctors made the difficult decision to amputate both of her legs below the knee. Despite multiple surgeries, a ruptured spleen and a kidney transplant, Amy’s biggest goal was to get back on her snowboard. Just seven months after her amputation, she was back where she belonged on the slopes and within a year, she was reaching the podium in competitions—an unheard-of feat for a double-leg amputee. 

Athlete and Advocate

Six years after her amputation, Purdy founded Adaptive Action Sports (AAS), an organization with the mission of giving individuals with disabilities the opportunity to participate in sports, specifically focused on snowboarding. AAS was instrumental in getting adaptive events included in both the summer and winter X Games. Amy continued to dominate the competition during this time and was named to her first Para Snowboard World Championships team in 2012. The creation of AAS and Amy’s personal efforts led to snowboarding being included in the 2014 Paralympic Games for the first time. 

Beyond her advocacy for Para snowboarding’s inclusion in the Paralympics, Purdy was also a member of the first U.S. Paralympic Snowboard Team, winning the first-ever bronze medal in snowboardcross for the United States. Then in 2017, she took home the World Championship bronze medal in banked slalom. Amy added a silver medal in snowboardcross and a bronze in banked slalom to her resume at the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang the following year. Across her 13-year competitive career, she pushed the boundaries of what was possible for a double-leg amputee athlete and changed the landscape of Para snowboarding forever. 

Changing the Narrative

Amy’s career is filled with firsts, and they didn’t stop coming when she stepped off the slopes. Immediately after the 2014 Paralympics, Purdy became the first Paralympian to compete on Dancing with the Stars—and she did more than just dance. Amy and her partner Derek Hough finished in second place, transforming how the media and the world perceive Para athletes. 

Over the years, Purdy made a name for herself professionally and has become a world-renowned motivational speaker, author, actress and thought leader even before she retired from competitive snowboarding in 2022. She has been recognized by Oprah as one of the top 100 thought leaders in the world, was featured in a Super Bowl ad and in the 2014 ESPN Body Issue with the goal of normalizing prosthetics and showing their strength. 

Amy has dedicated herself and her career to sports and creating opportunities for adaptive athletes to succeed. She has worked closely with the International Olympic Committee and the World Health Organization to promote inclusivity, sustainability and sport for development and peace. As one of the most successful U.S. Para snowboarders, Purdy has used her platform to give back to the adaptive and snowsport communities time and time again. 

Without Amy, Para snowboarding would not be the sport it is today.

Originally Published by US Ski & Snowboard

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