Friday, December 28, 2012

Adaptive Downhill Skiing Basics

Thanks to Chauncey McCarthy for this rundown on one of the most exciting adaptive sports of winter! Thanks to New England Disabled Sports for their photos and thanks to Posie Mansfield for her photo three track skiing! With these contributions I now have a good grasp of the basics of adaptive downhill skiing.

Downhill skiing is a great way you can enjoy the winter outdoors! If you like the exhilaration of speed, open views of mountains and clean crisp air, consider trying out an exciting new adventure on the slopes! It’s a wonderful opportunity to master a new set of skills and enjoy a colorful community of thrill seekers amidst spectacular scenery! With well-developed equipment and instruction, adaptive skiing has a growing presence at many major ski resorts, serving a large range of people (kids included!) with different types of disabilities.
Seated skis are a primary mode as well as the standard image of adaptive skiing. Sit skis work well if you have a spinal cord injury, lack of balance, or inability to stand. Sit skis come mainly in two design styles - the mono ski and bi ski. Sit skiers and adaptive ambulatory skiers use outrigger poles - forearm crutches modified with a ski tip bottom to help maintain balance and initiate turns.

A bi ski is the right choice if you have limited trunk control and some upper body strength. This sit ski has a large bucket seat mounted to two skis directly underneath the seat with limited suspension. Fixed outriggers can be used to increase stability. The instructor can tether into this ski to control the experience of the skier who may be passive or participate to the level of their ability.

A mono ski is a great choice for someone with trunk control and upper body strength. This sit ski has a bucket seat mounted with a suspension system to one ski. It can be self loaded and allows for a complete independent skiing experience once the skier had learned how to fully control the ski. With a lower center of gravity, sitskiers really fly downhill!

If you are ambulatory, adaptive skiing is achieved through three and four track skiing. These terms refer to the number of tracks left in the snow by a skier. Three track skiing is when a skier is using one ski and two outrigger poles, or two skis and one outrigger pole. Four track skiing is when the skier is using two outrigger poles and two skis.

For someone with limited leg strength or balance a device called snow slider can be used. The snow slider is essentially a walker attached to a pair of skis - outriggers can be added to increase stability and a tether can also be used by a support person.

Two track skiing for those who are blind or visually impaired is accomplished with tethers, verbal commands and other methods. A blind skier and sighted guide ski together wearing designated vests so others on the ski slope are aware of their presence. Instructors may use other skiing aids during the lesson to help increase the experience.

Many adaptive ski programs also serve youth and adults with autism and other intellectual disabilities, modifying instructions and stimulating influences to the best of their ability to allow for a more successful learning experience.

Several ski resorts in the New England area offer adaptive downhill skiing. Feel free to contact them if you have more questions and want to give it a try!

New England Disabled Sports offers adaptive skiing lessons at Loon Mountain (Lincoln, NH)
Ability Plus offers adaptive skiing at Mount Snow (West Dover, Vermont) and Attitash (Mount Washington Valley, NH)

New England Handicapped Sports Association runs adaptive skiing at Mount Sunapee, NH

Stride Adaptive Sports provides adaptive skiing lessons at Jiminy Peak Ski Area (Hancock, MA)

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