Adaptive Snow Sports

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As practitioners in the Orthotics and Prosthetic field we owe our patients not only our skills of mind and hand, but also the encouragement to live their lives to the fullest. We want them to have a life worth living in spite of whatever physical difficulties they possess. There are many ways to accomplish this, but one of the lesser known is adaptive snow sports.

The O & P field has had a connection with adaptive snow sports from its beginning. The “Grandfather of handicapped (adaptive) skiing” as he is referred to by the Skiing Hall of Fame is none other than Paul E. Leimkuehler, CPO. He had such an impact on the sport that in1981 was inducted into the Skiing Hall of Fame.

Leimkuehler had a trans-femoral amputation in WWII, and went on to become a CPO. In 1956, he created the first set of “outriggers” which are essential to many adaptive techniques. He became an avid skier and racer, and wanted to help others to get the same enjoyment he found from skiing. So the designs and measurements for his outriggers were freely offered to anyone who asked.

With all the recognition given to Leimkuehler from the skiing community it would lead one to believe the skiing world knows more about us than we do about what they have to offer our patients. Most practioners are aware of the Paralympics. There are articles in many of the trade magazines that highlight these elite athletes and there journeys as they compete in these events. But little is known of the Olympic-sized adventures awaiting many of our less than Olympic caliber patients we see everyday.

These adaptive snow sports programs have a lot to offer for both our orthotic and prosthetic patients. Not only does it give them an activity during the winter months, ...

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...he student has low mental and/or physical abilities. The bi-ski can be used in “full assist” mode in which the instructor holds on to a bar at the back of the sled and provides all of the steering and speed control.

If the students have sufficient upper body strength and good cognitive functioning the next step up from the bi-ski is the mono-ski. This device is similar to the bi-ski except it has a single fixed ski on the bottom that does not articulate. The rider initiates all turns. By leaning and shifting their body weight to one side the ski is tipped on its edge and carves an arc in the snow. Hand-held outriggers are used to provide support when the rider is turning. They can also be used to propel the mono-skier. A mono-ski can be self-loaded on and off the chair lift but it may be helpful for the student to be assisted by the instructor.
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