Thursday, December 23, 2010

Nordic Sitskiing - for families, winter explorers, and serious athletes!

Independent sitskiing at the Weston Ski Track.
We are still waiting for our first good snow here in western Massachusetts but nearby areas already have a foot of snow, so the winter recreation season is not far off. I am looking forward to getting back into a sitski this winter!

Nordic skiing, otherwise known as cross country, is my favorite form of skiing. I love gliding through a snowy landscape on my own power. While nordic skiing has been around for about 4000 years, nordic sitskiing is a more recent adaptation for skiers with spinal cord injuries, though not necessarily limited to people with disabilities. This seated outdoor exercise offers an upper body workout well-suited to those with a lot of strength and energy to burn. If you have use of your abdominal muscles you can use them to great advantage for bursts of speed. Sitskiing, with its lower center of gravity, allows for faster speeds on downhills compared to standskiing.

Kids can even be pulled by walking adults, and still use ski
poles to help propel themselves. 
Beginning sitskiers and those who would like to take a gentler approach can tandem up with a standskier and work together to travel farther on shared effort. This teamwork approach is a wonderful way for families of someone with a spinal cord injury, leg amputation, or similar type of disability to take trails excursions together. Standskiers can tether to a sitskier and assist on long upgrades or help brake on steep or long downgrades. I've been part of some wonderful outings in which family members on skis or snowshoes pursue their sitskier parent or sibling, explore the winter woods, and picnic alongside the trail! 

Groomed ski tracks work well for classical technique but
free skiing allows for faster speeds overall.
DCR's Universal Access Program offers free winter programs that make for a nice introduction to sitskiing in Massachusetts. We have sitskis in adult and kids sizes in a variety of styles. Even a person who cannot use ski poles can still get out on the trail at walking speed on modified sitskis with stroller bars and outriggers that prevent tipping sideways. The best spot to try it all out is at the Weston Ski Track outside Boston where extensive grooming on man-made snow allows for a good beginning experience. Or ski on the wild side at Wendell State Forest or D.A.R. State Forest, where snowmobile groomed roadways provide wide trails popular with cross country skiers and utilized in Universal Access Programs. At Mt. Tom State Reservation in Holyoke, snow is less guaranteed and there is no grooming, but sometimes conditions allow for sitskiing. Please see our winter schedule page for more info.

Elsewhere in New England, serious sitskiers will want to check out Maine Handicapped Skiing in Sunday River, Maine and the Jackson XC Center in Jackson, NH where Northeast Passage runs a Nordic Development Camp for skiers to train for the Paralympics. Vermont Adapted Ski and Sport also offers nordic skiing opportunities in the Green Mountain State.

No comments: