Introduction to Skiing
Downhill alpine skiing is a competitive and recreational winter activity in which individuals use skis to maneuver down a hill. Adapted skiing requires specially-designed equipment to allow individuals with physical disabilities the opportunity to participate. Adapted ski programs have grown due to the development of adaptive equipment for individuals with disabilities. Information on adaptive equipment, teaching techniques, workshops and certification clinics can be obtained from the Professional Ski Instructors of America.
The National Center on Health, Physical Activity, and Disability has created a series of video clips to demonstrate some of the primary adaptive ski methods. The video clips were taken at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago's Wirtz Sports Adapted Ski Program. The program is operated at Alpine Valley Ski Resort in Wisconsin. All volunteers used in the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago's Wirtz Sports Adapted Ski Program are experienced skiers with specific training and certification in adapted skiing. The program is open to anyone with a physical disability.
There are primarily five ski methods that an individual with a physical disability may utilize.
Sit Skiing requires a seated type of shell that has a slippery bottom and sits directly on the snow. Individuals who use a wheelchair for mobility use this method. Sit skiers use short outriggers. Outriggers are forearm crutches with shortened skis attached at the base of the crutch, which provide balance and steering maneuverability.
Mono Skiing requires a bucket style seat that has a single ski underneath. The individual sits in the seat and uses two short handheld outriggers. This is the most difficult sit-down equipment because it requires the most muscle strength to handle. Individuals who use a wheelchair for mobility and have strong upper extremities and good trunk balance use this method.
Bi Skiing requires a bucket style seat that has two wide skis underneath. The individual sits in this device and uses two short handheld outriggers, which may be attached to the bi-ski. An instructor is always tethered to a skier when attached outriggers are used. Tethering is a technique in which an instructor skis behind the ski with a tether strap (nylon safety cord) that is attached to the back of the Bi Ski. It is used to teach beginner skiers control, balance and turns. Two tethers are attached to the ski device or skier. Individuals who use a wheelchair for mobility, and who may not have strong upper extremities or good trunk balance, use the Bi Ski method.
Instructors always ski with an individual who is learning to ski.- Instructors also assist when the individual is learning to use a chair lift.- A chair lift is a lift with an overhead cable that skiers are seated on to be carried up a mountainside. Instructors assist at the chair lift to negotiate lines and load the ski onto the chair lift. Coordination with chair lift staff is crucial for efficient loading on chairlifts. Some systems will slow down and others will stop completely for loading.
Three Track Skiing
Three Track Skiing requires one ski and two hand held outriggers. The individual will ski standing on one ski while using the two outriggers. This method is used by people who ambulate with or without an assistive device, but do not have full use of one of their legs or feet for skiing.
Four Track Skiing
Four Track Skiing requires two skis and two hand held outriggers. Individuals who ambulate with the use of assistive aides and who may have poor balance often use this method. Four Track skiers may also utilize other specialized equipment, such as a ski bra. A ski bra is a small tube that is attached to the tip of each ski to assist in the prevention of ski tips crossing. Instructors ski near individuals who are utilizing this equipment to provide assistance when needed.