Adaptive skiing appeared before the First World War, in Europe at the beginning. But the real change came after the Second World War, many young Germans and Austrians had been amputated and still wanted to ski. The ones amputated above the knee (trans-femoral amputation) started skiing with 3 skis, a main one and two smaller ones called outriggers, a type of ski pole with mini skis at the end. It was very difficult for the ones amputated below the knee to be stable, and until 1948, the equipment was not very adapted. It is only after the Vietnam War (1955-1975) that adaptive skiing really evolved.
Until the seventies, when speaking about adaptive skiing, it was only for the one-leg amputees and the blind. The first mono-ski “skibob” was made with a seat in Kevlar attached to a normal ski. A pair of outriggers helps the skier stabilizing and maneuvering. It was the first type of skibob, but it marks the beginning of a new sport, developed mainly by associations and foundations, and boosted by competitions and adaptive alpine championships.
Since the nineties and until the beginning of the twenty first century, two European brands developed the equipment for disabled skiers: Dynaccess, KGB, Teton, Yetti, Enabling tech, Grove innovations and Armor Factory, the main competitors of the sector.
Adaptive skiing offers a large range of solutions because the equipment depends on the disability:
– 3-track skiing: stand-up skiing, one ski and two outriggers. For people suffering poliomyelitis, or hemiplegia or lower limbs amputees,
– 4-track skiing: stand-up skiing, two skis and two outriggers. It is adapted for people with developmental disabilities, spina bifida, spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis, and above-knee amputation.
– Monoskiing: for people who can only ski seating. The upper body of the skier must be strong and mobile enough to find the right balance. It is also recommended for some people with amputations, spina bifida or spinal cord injuries below the 4th dorsal. The mono skier is in a seat attached to a sort of ski. The outriggers help for the maneuvers and the balance. And it is possible to board on chairlifts without help, it is meant for disabled to ski independently.
– Bi-skiing: a seating type of skiing, for people suffering multiple sclerosis, spina bifida, mental injuries or spinal cord injuries below the fourth dorsal. The two skis provide a larger base than the mono ski. Bi skiers can ski alone, with outriggers for the balance and the manoeuvers.
– Snow ‘karting: It is a type of ski with assistance. The instructor helps the student who is seating on a bi ski, using fixed outriggers or tethers.
– As for the ones suffering sensory disabilities, skiing is not a problem at all. Hearing loss or deafness of course implies that the student can read lips or the instructor can use sign language. As for visual impairment and blindness, the instructor is the eye of the student, he/she describes the slopes, using sometimes a megaphone and tells the student where to go (to the left, to the right).
– We cannot forget mental illnesses such as Down syndrome, autism etc. Even if the equipment is not adapted, the way of teaching is not the same. The instructor must adapt, it is another way of learning, another teaching method.
– Sometimes skis are used with additional material, such as tethers attached to the skis to help slowing down or ski harnesses, the instructor helps maneuvering and can control the speed.
This is a video of disabled American rider, Josh Dueck’s, who is also a freestyle addict, he had an accident during a freestyle trick. This time he is intending it with a mono ski.
In the next chapter, we will speak about the best ski resorts for adaptive skiing in France, Andorra and Spain and we will disclose some spectacular videos involving disabled skiers. The person who wrote the article is not disabled but is a mono ski instructor.
He told us he loves it, the feeling and the control are different.
Javier Alonso de Linaje (Head of Todo Deporte Adaptado)