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Adaptive skiing

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Adaptive Skiing is a general term individuals who ski with disabilities.



Adaptive Skiing started around World War II with wounded German and Austrian troops who wanted to return to skiing. In 1942 Franz Wendel began adaptive skiing by creating a pair of crutches with short skis on the end that allowed him to "3 track" down the mountain. These "crutches" are now called outriggers among adaptive skiers. These outriggers became very popular among amputees. [1]

As popularity increased, so did the desire to turn adaptive skiing into a competitive sport. 17 skiiers participated in the first Championships in 1948. That race took place in Austria, but since 1950 races have been held world wide. [2]

In 1969 Jean Eymore, who was blind, developed a blind skiing program in Aspen. Sit Skiing also developed around this time. [1]

In 1976, Nordic Skiing, Slalom and Giant slalom all became official events in the first Paralympic Winter Games. Currently downhill, Super-G, Slalom, Giant Slalom, and Nordic Skiing are all Paralympic events. According to the International Paralympic Committee, athletes from 39 different countries practice adaptive skiing. [2]


Blind Skier Guides

A guide helps a blind skier down the mountain.
A guide helps a blind skier down the mountain.

This technique refers to the use of a second individual who will shout commands to the blind individual. This can be performed either from in front of the blind skier or from behind. Many guides may feel more comfortable shouting commands from behind because this allows them to see both the slope and the skier. There is a movement however to have all guides shout directions from the front. This may promote a better skiing posture from the skier who no longer has to turn his or her head backwards to hear the commands. [3]

Sit Skiing

An example of a Mono Skier.
An example of a Mono Skier.

Sit Skiing is the skiing method of choice for individuals with lower limb impairments and poor balance. Individuals with spinal cord injuries, amputations, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, and spina bifida can all use sit skis to help them ski. Sit skiing is divided into three types: Mono skiing, bi skiing and ski karting. There is little difference between the three types. Mono skiers have only one ski beneath their bucket seat while bi skiers have two. Mono and bi skiers usually use short outriggers to help them balance while skiing. The ski kart is a fiberglass shell that has four skis underneath it. Two skis are positioned in the front and two are positioned in the back. It is well balanced and controlled by using two levers which control the front skis. Ski karts are well suited to individuals with tetraplegia who still have some arm function. [4]

Two Track Skiing

A ski bra holds two ski tips together.
A ski bra holds two ski tips together.

Two track skiing is what most people consider to be "normal" skiing. The skier does not use any outriggers for balance, and may stand independently on two skis. However, as individuals with disabilities learn to two track ski they will often learn using tethers and "ski bras". A ski bra keeps the two skis held together and provides an attachment for the tethers. A ski instructor will follow behind the skier while steering the individuals skis with the tethers. This helps the skier to learn how to "feel the turn" and hopefully learn how to ski independently. [5]

Three and Four Track Skiing

A 3 track skier using outriggers.
A 3 track skier using outriggers.

This style of skiing is aptly named for the trails that skiers leave behind them. Three and four track skiers utilize outriggers to help provide balance and stability as they ski which leave an extra imprint in the snow. Three track skiers are typically amputees who stand using one ski and two outriggers. Three and Four Track Skiing work well for any individual who has the strength to stand, but who might need extra balancing help. Another form of four track skiing is the slider which is a harness that the skier can be strapped into which has the outriggers attached to it. [5]


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