Non-ambulatory skiers with advanced forms of cerebral palsy, spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, Spina Bifida, double-leg amputees or those who’ve suffered traumatic brain injuries are able to ski while sitting down in adaptive equipment. These disabilities often affect standing, leg strength, and/or balance.
The bi-ski, mono-ski, and twin ski are examples of adaptive equipment for students who cannot stand or maintain balance for an extended period of time, if at all.
Due to its inherent stability, the bi-ski is the most commonly used piece of sit-down equipment. With two skis attached to the bottom of the bi-ski, a student can balance himself upright with little effort. Additional balance and skiing finesse come from either small handheld outriggers or fixed outriggers. The choice of which outriggers to use depends on the student’s level of skiing ability and upper body/trunk strength.
The next photo shows a bi-ski made by Bi-Unique. Notice the tubular steel footrest, the two wide skis underneath, and the handheld outriggers (leaning against the bi-ski). The skis are connected with a mechanism that translates a lateral motion of the chair into a simultaneous tipping (edging) motion for the skis. Amazingly, stand-up skiers practice for years to achieve the edging motion a bi-skier can essentially do on their first day.
A hinge mechanism allows a student to remain seated in the bi-ski while getting on and off the ski lift with their instructor.
For mountain safety, we recommend an instructor tether the bi-ski. More advanced students often graduate to using a mono-ski by themselves. For beginning bi-skiers, an instructor uses “thumb tethering.” Essentially, the instructor holds the back of the bi-ski to teach the student good turns and speed control.
The ski instructor is responsible for the safety of the bi-skier, including keeping other skiers at a safe distance. This exciting piece of equipment attracts a lot of attention on the hill.
The mono-ski has only one ski attached beneath the seat. Since the mono-ski will not stand upright or remain stable, it requires a higher level of physical strength, balance, and coordination. However, the payoff is greater maneuverability. Really good mono-skiers can ski black diamond slopes and moguls. The mono-ski also offers more independence since it cannot be tethered. Accordingly, a skier is responsible for his own safety with a mono-ski.
This mono-ski is manufactured by Yetti. Notice the single ski attached to the bottom, the fiberglass seat and footrest, and the handheld outriggers (leaning against the mono-ski). It is not possible to tether or attach fixed outriggers to a mono-ski. That’s why initial instruction is done with “thumb tethering.” After that, the student must maintain balance and speed control on his own.
Like a bi-ski, the mono-ski is hinged to allow loading onto the lift chair. A lift operator uses a lever to raise the seat bucket to the height required for the lift. A strong skier can actually self-load, unload and ski alone. However, it takes time and practice to reach this level of proficiency.
Beginning instruction on the mono-ski focuses heavily on balance techniques. Strength, coordination, and handheld outriggers are mandatory to maintain balance. The outriggers have two locked positions: down for skiing, and up for stationary balance. In the photo on the right, the outriggers are in the up-right position. Metal brakes on the rear of the outriggers serve as spikes to keep strong contact with the snow surface when pushing oneself in the mono-ski.
A student learns how to maintain and recover his center of balance, as well as make the flat ski rotate on the snow (to a limited extent). This rotational movement becomes the foundation for learning the beginning turning movements on the mono-ski once the ski is actually moving forward.
While most of our sit-down students use either a bi-ski or mono-ski, the twin ski is becoming more popular. Like the bi-ski, the twin ski is fixed with two skis. However, the twin ski uses standard shaped skis. This picture shows a twin ski made by Freedom Factory. The twin ski offers more of the performance, versatility, and independence of the mono-ski, with some of the stability and simultaneous edging capabilities of the bi-ski. A proficient skier can load, unload, and ski the twin ski without assistance.