skiing took off with the invention of the "sit-ski" and
the "mono-ski," benefiting both snow- and water-skiers.
Outdoor enthusiasts with disabilities of all types, from paraplegia
to blindness, can glide swiftly over fresh snow right alongside
their non-disabled peers. Their accomplishments are many, ranging
from the recreational level to professional competition.
Several types of skiing are possible, with plenty
of new adaptive equipment available to make it do-able. Depending
on your interests and physical ability, choose from Alpine
(downhill) skiing, Nordic (cross-country), sit-skiing
or mono-skiing, or two-, three- and four-track skiing.
Each option has its own unique features that should be considered
prior to selection. These include snow skirts, roll bars, backrests,
cushioning, safety straps and tethering ropes.
Buddy system employs a second skier or guide to assist a
disabled skier in negotiating a ski slope or trail. Used initially
with visually impaired or blind skiers, the concept has been extended
to programs for the deaf and mentally impaired. This system involves
a 50-50 relationship between guide and skier, with the guide assuming
a great deal of responsibility for the safety of the disabled skier.
Communication is key to navigating a skier who in many cases may
have poor balance, rigid and uncoordinated movements, and a poor
sense of speed.
One of the largest categories of disabled
skiers is those who "three-track," or use one ski
and two outriggers. Outriggers are an adapted version of a forearm
crutch and a shortened ski or mini-ski. Outriggers provide extra
balance and steering maneuverability
that a standard ski pole doesn't. They are height-adjustable and
convert to walking crutches. Three-trackers usually are single-leg
amputees or have some type of hemiplegic impairment. Hemiplegics
can also use an additional adaptive support for a weak leg.
Four-track skiing is virtually the
same as three-track except the skier uses the second ski. The purpose
and use of the outrigger remains the same.
common problem for beginning skiers, both disabled and nondisabled,
is keeping the two skis separate and straight, parallel to one another.
The solution is a ski bra, consisting of two metal pieces that attach
to the front ski tips. When the two pieces are attached, the ski
bar prevents the skier from crossing tips.
Sit-skiing involves the use of a
sled or pulk-type device, with or without a ski attached. This concept
originated in Norway and was introduced in the United States in
1979. Sit-skiing opened up skiing to thousands of people with severe
lower extremity impairments. All initial
instruction on sit-skis should be done by a certified instructor
who is using a tether. Sit-skiers are not allowed to ski untethered
until they pass certification tests.
those of us who would rather not take on high slopes, there is also
Nordic (cross-country) sit-skiing, which has gained greater
popularity since bi-ski pulls became available. Given the type of
sit-ski used, the skier's choice of poles or steering/brake equipment
may vary. Options include standard and shortened ski poles,
outriggers, standard poles taped together, short ice-picks, and
even brass knuckles with or without a supportive wrist.
The introduction of the mono-ski and the
bi-ski has dramatically changed the nature of sit-skiing.
The connection of the seat to a single or double ski by means of
a complex suspension system has taken the skier off the ground with
speeds approaching 70 mph!
Special ski equipment for amputees is available
in a wide variety of terminal devices and lower extremity prostheses,
such as the All-Terrain Ski Terminal Device that holds ski
poles and has a quick disconnect feature. It is manufactured by
Therapeutic Recreation Systems (TRS). Many more manufacturers make
terminal devices and prosthetics for sports.
Be sure to see our sports
organizations page for adaptive ski organizations.
Snowmobiling is an easy and very
accessible way of taking in the great outdoors and crisp winter
air. The general features of snowmobiles are similar to wheelchairs:
Seat height, hand-controls and no foot pedals or foot-activated
controls make snowmobiling very inviting to individuals with mobility
Selection of equipment is based on an individual's
specific disability. Good upper- body strength and reliable
hand control are essential for safe use of any snowmobile. Snowmobiles
should never be operated by individuals under the influence of alcohol
or by anyone younger than 16. Equipment modifications can include
the attachment of looped rubber tubing to the foot platform to maintain
the lower extremities in the proper position. Layered clothing for
individuals with poor or limited circulation in the lower extremities
is advised. Anyone interested in this activity should consult local
dealers for suggestions on equipment selection and assistance making
of mono-skis, sit-skis, sledge hockey equipment and many other types
of adapted sports equipment for all seasons:
Access to Recreation, Inc.
Adaptive sporting goods and home healthcare equipment
Enabling Technologies (ET)
ET is a long-established company in adaptive ski equipment, including the Bi-ski, a hybrid mono/sit-ski. ET also produces adaptive outriggers, crutches, and provides repair services.
Makers of adaptive ski equipment
Maine Adaptive Sports & Recreation
MHS provides standard and adaptive ski equipment, warm winter clothing
when needed, and specially trained volunteers to work with children
and adults with physical disabilities so they can become independent
skiers and snowboarders. All lessons provided at Maine Handicapped
Skiing are free of charge to our students.
Sit-Ski the Extreme Adaptive Sports Website
Links to adaptive ski organizations, equipment and ski dates
Unique Inventions Inc.
Adaptive sports equipment.
Kingsley Mfg. Co.
O & P Online Community
Note: information on adapting sports was excerpted
with permission from Sports and Recreation for the Disabled, 2nd
edition, by Michael J. Paciorek and Jeffrey A. Jones (See recommended