Ralph Green lost his left leg at the hip as a result of a random street shooting in Brooklyn. He was only 15 when he was gunned down.
Vasu Sojitra was merely 9 months old when he was diagnosed with a rare blood infection called septicemia. In order to save his life, doctors amputated his right leg above the knee.
Jeremy McGhee is a T10 paraplegic. He lost the use of both of his legs when his motorcycle was hit by a car. He was 25 years old.
Craig Kennedy is paralyzed from the waist down as a T12 paraplegic. He was enjoying another day at Steamboat Ski Resort when a tragic ski accident left him with a broken back.
These four men come from dramatically different backgrounds, but they have one common thread among them: they are all adaptive skiers.
In its simplest terms, adaptive skiing allows athletes to bypass their physical limitations by using specialized ski gear. These men are all differently abled and use various adaptations to accommodate their individual abilities. Still confused? Let me break it down.
How to Ski: The Gear
Two-Track Skiing: Two-track skiing is for any athlete who can stand on two legs without any outriggers. In a way, this adaptation most resembles traditional skiing. However, these skiers may still need aides such as tethers with guides. Two-track skiing is best for adaptive athletes with developmental or cognitive disabilities, visual or hearing impairments, mild cerebral palsy, autism, or traumatic brain injuries.
Three-Track Skiing: This type of skiing is unique in that the athlete stands up on one ski while using outriggers in each hand to assist with balance. Three-track skiing requires plenty of strength in the leg and the arms, so athletes with weaker limbs should consider another option. Typically, this style of skiing is suitable for those with above-knee amputations.
Four-Track Skiing: In this adaptation, the athletes stands on his own two skis while also using two outriggers, having four points of contact with the snow. This style of skiing is great for a wide variety of disabilities, as long as the athlete can stand on two legs.
Sit-Ski: There are two types of sit-skis that are commonly used for athletes who cannot ski while standing: mono-ski and bi-ski.
Mono-Ski: This style of skiing uses a bucket seat attached to a singular ski. The athlete also uses two handheld outriggers for support. A mono-ski requires insanely strong core muscles and a knack for balance, so it can be difficult to learn. Most commonly, double amputees use this type of skiing, but it can be a good fit for multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy and cerebral palsy.
Bi-Ski: This ski is similar to the method above only it uses two skis underneath the bucket seat rather than one. A bi-ski is frequently used by athletes who are new to the sit-ski world, before moving on to a mono-ski. Additionally, bi-skis are great for those in wheelchairs or anyone with a mid-high level spinal injury.
Visual Impairments: It has to be noted that blind skiers can enjoy the slopes, too! Visually impaired athletes (VI) ski with guides who use a combination of verbal commands and reigns to help the athlete navigate the snow.
Where to Learn
There are many ski schools that have programs for adaptive athletes. In fact, we’re guessing you can find an adaptive program in any state that has a few ski resorts! The National Sports Center for the Disabled is a popular choice and has taught hundreds of adaptive athletes how to carve down a ski slope in style. In fact, Ralph Green spent four years learning how to ski a three-tracker at NSCD!
Want to learn more about adaptive skiing? Here’s how you can get involved.