Curious about the difference between three and two-track skis? Want some tips for loading the ski lift on your next powder day? High Fives Foundation founder and Eddie Bauer One Outside Leader Roy Tuscany along with Eddie Bauer Guide Trevor Kennison are here to answer your top questions about adaptive skiing in this episode of Outdoor Curious™.
00:36 – What is adaptive skiing?
Adaptive skiing is skiing for individuals with a disability. some individuals will use different types of equipment, and some individuals you might not even recognize have the disability actually on the hill. Some of the ones that you would see with specialized equipment could be a mono skier like Trevor Kennison, you could also see a bike skier which is an individual that has two skis underneath them articulating, and sometime is assisted by a guide. You could also see a four tracker and a three tracker, four tracker like myself is a individual that uses poles specialized with skis on the end of them. And then there’s also blind skiers, and there’s also deaf skiers, and individuals that have upper arm disabilities. And then some that you might not even recognize. So all of those are a lot of the different forms of adaptive skiing.
01:29 – What kind of equipment do I need for adaptive skiing?
I use a sit ski, and I use a single ski with a race plate and a binding on it. And I clip in just like a normal ski binding then I have out outriggers and they’re on the bottom there’s like little foot long skis on the bottom of both sides so that way it helps me balance and ski and stand up. Blind skiers have walkie talkies or microphones in their ears and a walkie or basically a microphone crack Roy that goes straight to your mouth. The guide is in front basically telling them, hey, there’s, you know, this bump in front of you or, you know, they’ll have their like signals and commands that they come up with. Four tracking, you have ski boots, pair skis you click straight into the binding and then you have these outriggers that helps stand and balance and ski and then you pull these strings and it flips down. I mean, you have these little skis attached to the end of the outriggers. If you’re three tracking, you’re missing a limb, you’re doing the exact same thing as four tracking but you’re only into one ski. You still have your outriggers with little skis at the bottom. If you’re missing like an upper limb, you’re still wearing ski boots, you’re still clicking in the skis and basically if you are you’re missing one limb, you only carry one pole. I don’t tend to see more than you know, people carry two poles if they’re missing a limb or anything right, Roy?
Yeah, I think that’s a good thing. One of the things I wanted to ask Trevor is anything special that you do your binding when you have your mono ski clicked into it?
Yeah, so for my sit ski, I put a race plate down straight on the ski and it gets screwed in and then I put another put a race binding. So it’s 24 in put it right on the plate to give it more durability and strength and flexibility and then once I click the binding in, I have this block, actually it’s right here. I have this block, which goes like this, put in the back of the binding and then basically this pin goes straight through this way and it locks you and that way you don’t eject from the ski. And that’s super important for sit skiing, you wanna stay in your ski so you don’t rag doll it’s the opposite with people that are able bodies stand up skiers. You wanna release from a ski so you don’t tear a knee.
03:45 – Roy, what are outriggers, and when were they first created?
Outriggers are adaptive ski poles for individuals that can be used from a seated or standard position to provide balance and give the individual the opportunity to turn and also stop. They are longated poles that have handles on them and kind of cuffs that your arms go into. The handles are usually fitted or at least have some type of cushion or padding on them. And then at the end of ’em have a retractable system of a small little ski. I use ’em for four tracking, Trevor uses outriggers for sit skiing, and they actually were invented back in the early 50, 60s I believe. They were invented by an Austrian who got cancer and had to have his leg amputated. No, he lost his leg in a motorcycle accident I believe actually.
04:36 – How many ways are there to ski adaptively?
I would say sit skiing, bike skiing, three tracking, four tracking, upper body missing limbs. There are blind skiers, deaf skiers. There is a sip and puff.
That’s that new ski that’s going around from tesier. That’s a pretty amazing thing where an individual can control the ski by sip and of, or has a joystick or has a bar that allows you to push and stop. I would actually say Trevor that I think to truly say how many different ways are there to adaptively ski? Well, you know, every disability is a little bit different. So I think there’s an infinity actually way to adapt to ski is everybody’s gonna have a little bit different you know, even a mono skier like yourself every mono skier doesn’t fit into the same mono ski.
There are infinite ways because when you are adapt to skiing, right? There are many ways, you know, everyone’s different but like in general, when you’re able body skiing you still have to adapt, you have to put on ski boots, you have to put on skis you have to wear poles, you’re still adapting and using equipment and you can’t just go out there and ski you on your feet. You know, even able body people, they have to adjust their boots and all this stuff and you know, with a disability you have to do that just a little bit more.
05:52 – What’s a good way to get into adaptive skiing, specifically sit skiing. I’m a new paraplegic.
When you’re first get injured and you’re first trying to learn how to sit skiing for what I did I recommend, I signed up for an adopter program, I went for a half day and I had an instructor. They fit you in these sit skis and ended up going on the bunny hill and he was behind me like holding onto a tether. So it’s like over rope that attaches to your sit ski, you know, contacting an adaptive program and telling ’em your injury, telling your situation, explaining what you wanna do and showing your face and showing up and getting it done.
Think you said the best thing there showing up. And you know, from there you actually went on to do a bunch with therapeutic rec from Craig Hospital And hat’s where you really started to take off on your skiing right? Like that’s where you like jumped for the first time I think?
Exactly, showing up as a step one.
06:45 – what are the best ways to train as an adaptive skier?
Train like enable body skier I think is the best answer. You know, Trevor and I were both lucky to go through some amazing training at the Adapter Training foundation in Dallas, Texas, a nine week program and then they also have two week hyper programs. I really encourage something like that, where you’re in a community that understands, that’s trained specifically for sport.
07:09 – What are some tips for loading the chairlift?
I recommend when you’re first starting out or just in general, I would ask for of the lefty every single time, hey can I get a slow, they’ll slow it for you. And then that way, you know, you push up to the red line and you get yourself ready. And there’s two different ways to do it, you know, you can line yourself up in the middle and you know, you have your outriggers in the pick position and so you can lift yourself up. But basically kind of turning yourself, you know you have the clock, so kind to hitting 11 o’clock so you can look over your left shoulder if you’re comfortable with the right side, look over one o’clock and then look over your right shoulder and basically you kinda time it when it comes through to that blue line. And then you go one, two, three and just push up like a dip and then you kind of slot yourself onto the chairlift. For what I did, I used to do that in the beginning and for what I now I don’t get a slow, but you can ask for a slow, I kind of turn myself, you know, like 45 degrees facing left shoulder and I’m all the way to the left and I take my left hand and I place it straight on the armrest basically where the chairlift is. So I grab the chairlift and then I have my right outrigger and I push it on the ground, I grab the chairlift and I do one, two, three basically all at once and then I slot my sit ski straight onto the chairlift and that’s how I get on it.
One thing I’ve always noticed with you Trevor is you now said it, you like to be on the outside. Does it matter as a sit skier as you progress? Some people prefer to be on the inside of what’s called the bow wheel or as the chair comes closest to the turn style of the lift, or do people prefer to be on the outside? Where does that happen?
I started in the middle and I would do the two push system, but as I progressed, like grabbing the chairlift and then pushing with my right outrigger, easy. The other day I did load it on the right side and I was like, can I get a slow, you know I’m loading on the right side. So I was like, you know, I had grabbed and pushed up and I was like, whoa, this feels weird. and like got on but still it was just, it’s just different. So yeah, that’s how I get it on.
09:13 – Is heli-skiing possible?
Yes, Heli-skiing is possible for all disabilities.
It’s really up to the guides and the people you go with. Trevor just went on a trip with Eddie Bauer Athlete KC Dean and Level 1 Productions and actually High Fives sent a quadriplegic assisted bike skier to the Chugach with points north heli back in the as well. And it really comes down to contacting and making sure that the heli operation knows. And most of the time, as I believe Scott even said to you, this re-energized him to take you out there and have a new perspective to guiding and really honing in on safety because of the thought process that someone always had to be behind you to make sure that if anything ever happened to you they could get to you in an effective amount of time.
10:04 – Roy, what are some personal must haves for an excellent ski day?
Oh man, must haves for a personal, amazing ski day? I mean it’s friends, good snow, sunshine, blue skies, fresh snow, I think those are all the essentials and it doesn’t matter who you are, those are like check the box maybe some hot cocoa in the lodge too. Some hot Coco, that’s always good. And then, oh a good parking spot you know, we’re one of the benefits
Having that audience like your friends with you, like you, that definitely helps so much. I would say just like a bunch of snow, like two, three feet of snow.
I’m like, I actually like four inches ‘ cause like of my four tracking ability but a four inch powder is like amazing. I’ll take it like, everyone’s like, oh it’s only four. I’ll take, I got it’s like, yeah.
No, no, no, but four inches on a groomer.
Yeah, it’s gotta be on a groomer too thank you Trevor, thank you for clarifying that.
It’s amazing, it’s just blower snow though you’re just like, ugh.
11:02 – I’ve never skied before my spinal cord injury. Is that a nonstarter or a reason not to try?
I never skied a day in my life, never put on ski boots a day in my life. So no, you can’t ski or not sit ski because you’ve never done it. Highly recommend trying it you know, it’s definitely, it’s nice because like I said, never skied so kind of having that like fresh start of like, oh no this is how it’s supposed to go or this is what you know, it’s supposed to be like. But so like having that like open mind of just like, all right, this is how I supposed to be.
11:39 – Where is the best place to ski adaptively?
You can ski anywhere adaptively. So, you know, heli skiing obviously. But honestly I would have to say one of the best places to go ski adaptively is my home resort, Winter Park Resort. You know, parking’s easy, they have this program, national support center for the disabled and they have a huge program there. So I would say Winter Park Resort
I would say my go-to place, cause it’s super easy I went there yesterday, Palisade Tahoe. I can park right there, get on snow and go. And it is the biggest mountain and it’s just an exploring mountain to go. But also Lee Canyon in Las Vegas cause no one really knows about it.
12:25 – What are the biggest challenges of adaptive skiing?
I think the biggest challenges with adaptive skiing is just getting comfortable with your equipment. It’s also just hard to get back into it and understand that there’s gonna be a learning curve again. And I think that’s one of the biggest takeaways is being comfortable with the learning curve and allowing that process to happen and realizing that just like you had to learn to ski or snowboard, or maybe you never skied or snow, but you learned how to do something before, you’ve gotta take that same process into the idea of any type of adaptive sport when you get back into it, it’s a learning process.
13:01 – Sit ski back flips, how?
Sit ski back flips, a lot of commitment. I’ll leave it at that. Just a lot of commitment. That’s all I have to say.
13:12 – Are there any support groups or communities to support adaptive athletes?
Yes, you know, High Fives Foundation is one of them another, you know, foundation I went to is Adaptive Training foundation to go train as well. But yeah, there, like I said there’s multiple out in the country you just have to, you know, type it in and like kind of just seeing what you are I guess what you’re liking or what you’re trying to do.
13:37 – Is downhill skiing the only option for adaptive skiers?
No, I mean there’s tons of options, you could try the path of Trevor Kennison, you don’t have to go racing, you can start racing and then go in this free skiing. You could also go Nordic skiing. There’s adaptive, Nordic skiing, that’s out. And there’s a lot of options out there. And I think the coolest thing is that the community continues to grow and as it grows, you really get to see all the different forms and the creative ways that people are using skiing as a form of not only returning to sport, but also for recovery.
100%, and real quick, I mean, I know you said Nordic skiing, but for don’t they have the Nordic skiing and then that competition where you like go shoot stuff too and then you like push again
There you go, so that’s another sport.
14:27 – Can you adjust your leg position in a sit ski?
Yes, you can adjust your leg position in a sit ski.
14:33 – what’s the cost to get into adapt skiing?
You know, that’s a barrier to entry for sure is cost. The equipment because there’s just not as many sit skiers as there are able body skiers. There’s just a high cost for ’em. So, you know, a sit ski is gonna cost you a brand new on a high end rig is gonna cost you over $8,000. The binding specifically to the ones that Trevor talks about are, you know over a thousand, outriggers are about 500 bucks and that’s just your sit ski your binding and your outriggers. Then you gotta be warm, luckily Eddie Bauer has created the first ever specific adaptive outerwear kit that Trevor Kennison was a part of. Then you gotta get helmet, goggle, all those things, lessons. I mean, unfortunately the cost is gonna be over $15,000 but High Fives, Kelly Brush Foundation, Challenged Athletes foundation, and other programs across America that give grants to help ease the cost of this.
15:30 – Where can people in Canada learn to adaptive ski?
I believe there’s many resorts in Canada. I believe Revel Stoke is one of ’em, Panorama BC is one of them, I believe Whistler is another one out on the coast. I think there’s some on the east coast as well.
Rocky Mountain is a really great one. There’s also one at Silver Star, there’s one at Whistler. I contact Landon is what I would do kind of what I do with a lot of things that are Canada. I’d contact Landon.
Yeah, Landon, he’ll tell you what’s up in Canada.
He’ll tell you exactly where to go.
16:10 – What are some future goals?
I dunno, from when I first started and met Roy it was really cool to, you know, yeah I get the support and have that family. He’s helped so many individuals and you know, I just remember like I admired him being able to do that. And I was always like how can I help or how can I do that? I wanna be like Roy. You know they’re all that ever be anyone like Roy, I raised some money for Roy and you know, I remember like five years ago, I was like, Roy, I’m gonna give you a big check. cause he has a bunch of checks on his wall. You know I was like, he’s had such an imprint on me so how can I, by what I’m doing, skiing biking and doing me, how can I just continue to give back and just keep getting awareness through High Fives? What would you say to that, Roy?
I say that you’re amazing, and I appreciate you. And I’m really excited for more things where we get to experience like we did in Aspen seeing you do some first amazing ever accomplished things in front of the world. And so I hope there’s more moments like that. Those are some really cool goals. So that’s what I’m excited for.
I love that, man.
Eddie Bauer Ski Guide
In 2014, while snowboarding in Vail, Colorado, Trevor suffered a traumatic spinal injury that left him paralyzed from the waist down. Undaunted, he took up sit skiing, starting on bunny slopes while dreaming of unlimited speed and deep powder. With the help of physical therapy and training camp scholarships from the High Fives Foundation, Trevor built up his strength and skills and is now a pro skier and an active member and leader of the High Fives Foundation.
Eddie Bauer One Outside Guide
Roy is an avid skier, mountain biker, and father. He’s also the founder and CEO of High Fives Foundation (HFF), a nonprofit organization that helps athletes recover from life-changing injuries and return to the sports they love. It’s something Roy knows a lot about: In 2006, he suffered a devastating spinal cord injury while skiing that left his lower body paralyzed. Instead of realizing his dream of becoming a world-class pro skier, he had to relearn how to walk. But two years later, he was able to step into skis equipped with outriggers.