Hello fellow ski enthusiasts. I am excited to be able to share my enthusiasm about snow sports with you. In the off season when the grass is green and the trees are full. Did you ever catch your self checking out a hill of dirt, grass or even rocks? In a day dream your mind covers the hill with snow and you scribe out the perfect line that you would ski. Driving down the highway every slope hill and mountain you pass is fair game if it only had snow on it. Did you ever point it out to someone? Did they ever look at you like you were way gone. If these thoughts ring a bell then you are like me, a ski enthusiast. Should it matter that I spend my days sitting in a wheelchair? Most people think of skiing as a stand up legs sport for the strong daring thrill seeker. But it really is a gravity sport. Gravity does the work and we control its pull by mastering some basic skiing skills including balance, pressure, edging and rotary movements. Whether you are standing on skis, a board, ski blades or sitting in a sitski, these skills are needed to get you safely down the hill.
As a youngster, I started skiing through my Jr. High School ski club. That was back in 1977, I was hooked the first day. I skied every chance I could with my school, the YMCA and friends. Then in the summer of 1981 while body surfing in the ocean, my life took a turn in a direction I never could have imagined. The wave I was riding crested suddenly and flipped me over, dropping me head first onto the beach. With a pop, a flash of light, and an electric shock through my body, I was paralyzed. I received a spinal cord injury or in other words, I broke my neck. I am a C6-C7 incomplete quadriplegic. To go from surfing, skiing, skate boarding and kick boxing to a wheelchair is not your every day turn of events and can put a damper on your plans.
I then went through therapy and followed some good advice. Don’t sit and dwell on what you can’t do. Focus on what you can do! I took that to heart and never looked back. I wrote off skiing because I thought it was something I could not do anymore. I focused on the things important to an 18 year old young man; a job and a woman! Back 1981, the sit down ski equipment was not easily available or very good. The first piece of equipment that came to my attention was a toboggan looking thing called a sitski. But it did not have a ski on it, go figure. To me it was not skiing. I did miss the sport I loved so much and the winter was a bit of a downer for me. But life went on and years few by.
Then in late 1994, I checked out a disabled skier chasing some gates on ESPN. He was in a sit down ski called a mono-ski and he was skiing. Immediately, I knew that was it for me. That was the skiing I wanted to do. I made some calls and found a mountain with a disabled ski program. I booked a lesson and my long lost passion was in my grasp once again. It was that simple. They are now called adaptive ski programs and there is one near you. After I started taking lessons, I was hooked once again fourteen years later.
Back then in 1995, the internet was nothing like it is today. I could not find a good source of information for disabled skiing so I decided to build one. Sitski.com was born. I took lessons for two seasons, then free skied with a local ski club. I was the only sit down skier in the club and spent the next 5 years chasing some hard core vertical hounds. My skill level increased along with my confidence. In 2001 I decided to give back to the sport I love, so I joined the Adaptive Sports Foundation and became a ski instructor with PSIA. I am now certified at level II adaptive. I love skiing and I love teaching.
Well, now you know who I am. That’s my story and I am sticking to it.
There is a little more to adaptive skiing then just skiing. That is the adaptive equipment. Just like you should get a binding check and a ski tune before the new season you need to maintain your adaptive equipment.Your outriggers: Make sure the string and moving parts are in good working order. Use white lithium grease on the pivot point and be sure the string is not about to break. It’s better to catch it now then on the snow. If you use sit equipment you have several key points you need to maintain.
Your Straps: Make sure that all the screws that attach them to the seat are tight and secure. Check the buckles for cracks or defect. If so, don’t put it off. Change them now!
Check all the Pivot Points. This is where your moving frame parts join. A nut and bolt, a bolt and rod end … You should know how your equipment works and what joints are critical. I service sitski equipment and I can not believe the condition some of the equipment is in when I get it. You don’t have to be an extreme skier to have bolts loosen and bushings wear out. If the joints are loose the ski will not perform and you will be working harder to make your turns. The parts will also ware out faster with much more damage to the frame and even yourself. Tighten all nuts and bolts but not so tight as to prevent the joint from pivoting. Lubricate the joint. Replace any worn parts.
Shock Absorber: This is a component most people take for granted and never have serviced. Yet it takes the most abuse of any part on your rig. If your monoski seems “squishy”, soft, weak or the shock bottoms out then pops you up throwing you off balance, then it needs service. Your shock needs to be serviced in relation to how hard and how often you ski. Some shocks cannot be serviced but just replaced. If you gained or lost weight over the years, you might need a new or different spring for your shock. Keep your equipment clean and maintained and you will have great days out on the snow.
Extra Tips: Get a fanny pack and keep some spare nuts, bolts and tools with you. Also keep body and hand warmers, a radio or cell phone and some ski wax with you. A little fanny pack can go a long way. I call it a “save a run” kit. In your ski bag back at the car or in the lodge have some lock-deice on hand. This will help keep you riggers from freezing up on the wicked cold days. In addition, have some duct tape, spare gloves and a spare outrigger or at least the ski part. This might seem like over kill, but let me tell you when we break equipment out on the mountain; we can’t just run to the ski shop and get a replacement. The harder you play, the harder you pay. Be ready for the unexpected. I have been mono-skiing now for ten years. I have broken skis, bindings, my shock, my outrigger, traps and a foot rest. I also lost nuts and bolts, a glove and ripped gloves too. Fortunately, my day was not over because of these problems.
On a typical ski day I will bring at least two skis and my repair bag. The repair bag contains the big repair items such as a spare shock and the tools to swap it out. It also has spare parts, rod ends, nuts, bolts and rigger parts. I have swapped out my shock at lunch time and was skiing with my friends for the rest of the day. If you are like me and you are enthused about skiing, you don’t want to miss the day because of equipment problems. Consider driving three hours to your favorite mountain and paying $50 or more for a ticket. It’s a brisk beautiful morning and on your second run your rigger catches a chunk of ice and cracks right in half at the pivot point. The rigger ski tip is gone and you go for a tumble. An alternate scenario could be that you have a bad off load from the chair lift landing on the rigger breaking it and your ski binding. Is your day over? I think NOT, if you follow this advice!
If you have skied for any length of time you already know that it can be expensive. Well there are ways around that. As for the mountain it self, volunteer for the adaptive ski program. This could get to a season pass, if not at least a comp day pass. Now for clothing … I don’t know about you, but I cannot find it in my heart to pay $300 for ski pants. Fortunately, I will never have to because of EBay! I have picked up some great ski clothing for next to nothing, both new and used! As for used, I look for the brand new condition used one or two times. If you read between the lines you can tell if this is someone who was going on a ski trip for the first and wanted to look the part and went shopping. This person found out the hard way that putting on a $300 pair of Northface ski pants does not make you a skier. So they sit in the closet for a season or two and are up for grabs during spring cleaning. $35.00 later I have another pair of good quality ski pants. There are also wholesalers who only sell new items. Some of us mono-skiers go through skis pretty fast, breaking them or just flattening them out. You can pick up a pair of skis and bindings with little use for a great price.
So here we go! The 2005-2006 season is here. Air out the ski bag now and sort through your gear. The night before opening day is not the time to remember you lost your goggles. Lastly, if you know anyone with a disability, let them know there is freedom on the slopes.