Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Strategies For Making Modified Sitskis

Everyone is included in this family outing at D.A.R. State
Forest thanks to the use of a modified sitski.

Here's a look at what we've done to make sitskis more user friendly for those who require secure assistance for gentle winter outings.

With credit to Brenda Davies (pictured far right) for the initial momentum for this project, the DMR handled our first fabrication of two sitskis and did a professional job in their shop. We provided the sitskis - they created a stainless steel stroller bar handle and clamped it on. To prevent sideways tipping of occupants that is easily caused by an irregular posture and trail ruts, the DMR fabricators created an outrigger from of the tips of downhill skis mounted on blocks and attached to a bar, which is then clamped onto the sitski frame. A chest strap can also be used to keep a passenger's weight more centered in the seat - the handle bar frame provides a secure support.
Sitski by Colin Dye with stroller bar and outriggers by the
Massachusetts DMR fabrication shop.

Since the DMR could only do a one-time project for us, we resorted to a new design for our next set of modified sitskis, using flexible conduit pipe to bend an arched and wider handlebar shape onto the back of the sitski, attached with plumbing clamps. The handle in this case extends beyond the width of the sitski - a feature that is great for easier manueverability for the pusher, but complicated for transport - so the bigger the sitski, the better it is to keep it based on one site. The outriggers were a close replica of our DMR designed model. Thanks to Michelle Bitgood for creating and completing this fabrication and adding to our fleet!

The modified Ski For Light sitski.
We see a lot of use of this equipment, especially at larger programs that attract groups. Four of these modified sitskis aren't always enough! Last year we selected a Ski For Light sitski that had been donated to our program for our next modification. The knee support bar was sawed off and sanded down, allowing for a range of options for comfortable leg positioning using bolsters. Bryant Stewart, supervisor of Wendell State Forest, used square aluminum tubing to construct a frame for a round tube cross bar handle, which he bolted onto the sitski frame.

Despite its cafeteria style seating, the Ski For Light sitski is surprisingly comfortable. With wider skis set further apart, we decided not to use outriggers, which allows greater ease of poling movement for the sitskiers who use poles. If desired, rubber bike grips can be attached to handles for greater traction and warmth for those pushing. It is also helpful to position the skis more forward under the frame to allow for easier walking for the person behind the sitskier.

Sitski by Bob Hall with modifications by Michelle Bitgood.

All of these designs function well and demonstrate a range of possibilities. So often adaptive equipment needs further modification to better serve users and much homespun innovation goes on out there! If you have other solutions for supporting people with severe disabilities on the snow, please share! I am still surprised that there isn't a standard product on the market yet - or if there is, please let us know!

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