~~It's your first day as an adaptive skier, and you have to wait for your friends and family to catchup? Sound too good to be true? It did for Roy Ring, a 45-year-old below-knee amputee three- track skier. That is, until he tried ski-biking for the first time.
~~A construction worker who plays softball in his free time, Roy has been frustrated by only being able to three- track ski on easy runs for half a day before his leg was shot. Now, he tells a different story: " With the ski-bike, I can ski the whole mountain all day and be ready for more."
~~Widely used by able-bodied skiers in Europe for more that 50 years, the ski-bike is essentially a bicycle frame that substitutes skis for wheels. Its low center of gravity and four points of contact with the snow allow a stable ride and a rapidly accelerated learning curve when compared to skiing and snowboarding. Beginning ski-bikers are usually comfortable on intermediate terrain within half a day. And it's the quickest way ever to the elusive "carved turn".
~~As an adaptive device, the ski-bike was first used in Europe with the British Limbless Ex-serviceman's Association (BLESMA) for skiers with above and below knee amputations and other disabilities. Here in the U.S., Vail resorts welcomed the ski-bike as adaptive equipment two years ago, and I have used it at Winter Park, Breckenridge, Keystone, Copper Mountain, Loveland, Durango Mountain, and Jackson Hole ski areas.
~~What makes the ski-bike ideal for amputees and others with disabilities is that the forces of skiing are transferred through the bike directly to the core of the skier's body, effectively unweighting the legs. Adaptive ski-bikers can wear their prosthesis and still end their day with no sore spots on a residual limb and much less fatigue than their able bodied friends. That was a first for Roy.
~~According to Hal O'leary, founder of the National Sports Center for the Disabled (NSCD) in Winter Park, "The ski-bike is truly a device that allows a variety of persons with disabilities to access recreation in a quick and effortless way - it's instant skiing."
~~Not all ski areas currently welcome ski-bikes, however. Therefore, before showing up at your local ski area, you might want to seek advance permission to use one as an adaptive device. A gentle but firm approach, along with a good understanding of the Americans with Disabilities Act, will help open new doors.
~~"On a ski-bike, I have no limits," says Roy with a smile." Now everybody has to keep up with me, instead of me trying to keep up with them. See you on the slopes." •
About the Author
Dr. Cain is a bilateral below-knee amputee and a member of the ACA Board of Directors. He introduced the ski-bike as an adaptive device to the U.S. to keep up with his father, a 26-year ski-patrol veteran.