Adaptive Snow Skiing
Beech Mountain Ski Resort in North Carolina has an adaptive snow ski program. It also hosts several ski clinics that are operated in conjunction with Eastern Carolina University and the Patricia Neal Innovative Recreation Cooperative. But, let's get you on the slopes!
Adaptive skiers use the regular ski lifts. It is the ski that has been adapted to the ski lift. For our lessons, they let us go to the front of the line, but we had to make certain we were ready to go or we would hold up the lift line.
The ski has a pneumatic pump that lifts the skier up so that the ski lift sweeps under the skier. The ski's bucket seat sits on the lift itself and the skis slip underneath the lift.
Carly is an independent skier - which means she no longer needs ski helpers, but she is demonstrating the use of a tether between her and the helper. In this case it is a single line tether that the helper uses to slow the skier if necessary.
You can only see one here, but I had two helpers. One helped keep me upright and also kept me from accidentally roaring down the hill. The other kept skiers from roaring into me. You'll not be surprised to know that he is called "the blocker". Brave men (and women) all! You can see the helper is using a double line tether which not only slows me down, but can be used to help me steer. This saves folks downhill from being terrorized by my uncontrolled excursions.
For even more control the helper sometimes skis right behind the adaptive skier without a tether. Here the helper is completely controlling the skier, keeping him upright and steering as well.
People who are blind can also enjoy skiing. Here you see two helpers with an adaptive skier between them. All three of them are holding onto a long rod which gives the adaptive skier clues as to when to turn and how fast to go. They also give verbal cues as to what sort of terrain and traffic is ahead.
It isn't always easy to hold on though. Sometimes, the helpers get separated from the adaptive skier in which case he just stops and waits for them.
Depending on their type and degree of injury, adaptive skiers may eventually become independent skiers. If so, they no longer need helpers and can ski by themselves.
They can even learn to ski backwards. Admittedly, Chris, seen in this picture, is an adaptive snow ski instructor at Beech Mountain, but, it is still amazing to me that he skis as well backward as forward. Heck, I seemed to ski mostly on my side, sliding down the mountain. OK, it was my first time. Chris told me that I would probably do better after about four lessons.
Now, that you have seen some people on the slopes, I'll show you some of the equipment they use up close and personal. Adaptive skiers usually start out on a bi-ski like this one. It has two skis underneath a bucket seat. As the skier leans into a turn each ski independently tilts and cuts into the snow. The bi-ski is pretty stable although I managed to fall over quite a bit. Couldn't resist tasting that snow. Yuk.
More advanced skiers use a mono-ski. You'll notice that there is a substantial shock absorber underneath the bucket seat. The bi-ski also has shock absorbers but they are much smaller. If you go fast, you'll think big is better!
The skier uses outriggers which are like short forearm crutches that have little skis on the tips. The outriggers have two positions for the little skis. In the ski-up position the outrigger skis are used as either brakes or push poles to get the skier started.
Here, the outriggers are in the ski-down position. Mike uses them to initiate turns and to keep from falling over sideways - although mine didn't seem to keep me from falling over.
Chris explained all the adaptive ski parts, pieces and appendages before he let me near the slopes. His motto was "safety first, fun second." It took me several runs before I really understood what he meant when he said I should "Always ski in control!".
Mike is just about ready to go. He's receiving his last minute instructions from Chris. He is an independent skier and has a blast on the slopes.
Who knows - even I might be able to ski well one of these days! You never know what you can do until you try.