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Hit the Slopes!
By Candy B. Harrington
Now that winter is here, it's time to hit the slopes. And thanks to a wide variety of adaptive equipment, stroke survivors in wheelchairs can enjoy skiing. Whether you're a beginner who has never set foot on the bunny hill or an advanced skier who wants to re-learn the sport after your stroke, there's something for you in the world of adaptive skiing. The key to success lies in choosing the right equipment.
Skiers who can stand, yet lack balance can use standard snow skis and a set of outriggers. An outrigger is a mini ski attached to the end of an adapted forearm crutch and is used in place of a standard ski pole. It helps with balance and control and is ideal for people with lower limb weakness.
Skiers who cannot stand can use a mono-ski or a bi-ski. A mono-ski works best for skiers who have good upper body strength. It consists of a molded seat mounted to a frame over a single ski. A shock absorber links the frame to the ski, and two outriggers are used for balance and turning.
People with limited upper body strength are better suited to the bi-ski, a fiberglass shell mounted on two independently angulating skis. There is a handle inside the bi-ski which allows the skier to steer, and two fixed outriggers near the base which gives the bi-ski more stability. The bi-ski is usually tethered by a ski instructor, who is attached to the back of the bi-ski by a nylon strap.
If downhill skiing isn't for you, then consider cross country skiing. Participants who can stand use traditional cross country skiing equipment. Those who can't stand or lack balance use a sit-ski and propel themselves with shortened ski poles in this adapted sled-like device.
So how do you know which method and equipment are right for you? Check out some of the adaptive ski schools across the country. There you will find the experts at adapting ski equipment and trained instructors who can teach you how to use it. Adaptive ski schools range from large national outfits like the National Ability Center, the U.S. Adaptive Recreation Center and the National Sports Center for the Disabled, to smaller regional operations like the Tahoe Adaptive Ski School and Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports.
For a list of adaptive ski schools around the world, visit www.Sitski.com or www.EmergingHorizons.com. Additionally, contact Disabled Sports USA, your Center for Independent Living or your local ski area to find out about adaptive programs near you. Chances are, wherever you'll find snow, you'll also find an adaptive ski program.
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