A New Concept in Outriggers for "Three-Track" Skiing

Lee Rullman


In various parts of the country programs to provide skiing for amputees and other handicapped persons are enjoying a tremendous growth spurt. In providing the specialized equipment required for this activity, one definite weakness in the items available has come to the forefront. There is an obvious need for a new and workable outrigger which will combine stability with the maneuverability needed to supply the pushing motion for travel across level or uphill terrain. This assistance is provided by the ski poles of nonhandicapped skiers.

Articles in past issues of the Inter-Clinic Information Bulletin1,2,3 have described various ski programs and the different types of outriggers used. In reviewing these programs, one notes that the outriggers had one problem in common. This was the necessity for the skier to raise and lower the spike unit (used in traveling across level or uphill areas) either by hand or by using the opposite outrigger. Such was the situation in the Gillette Hospital Three-Track Ski Club in its initial year of operation during the winter of 1969-70. Our outrigger was patterned after the one used in the Fitzsimons General-Denver Children's Hospital program.

With the advent of the 1970-71 skiing season and the growth of our ski group into the Minnesota Handicapped Skiers Association, we were convinced that there was a definite need for a new and more versatile outrigger to accommodate the variety of individuals in the expanded program. Mr. Ed Pauls, designer of the Rosemont Ski Binding, was contacted and he agreed to try and solve the problems which were inherent in our previously used equipment.

The "Flip-Ski"

One of the early suggestions for an improved outrigger was that the control for the plunger device should be mounted on the handle of the crutch so the skier would be able to lower the spike with greater ease and less work when it was necessary to travel on level or hilly areas. This problem has been solved with the development and testing of what has come to be called the "Flip-ski."

As with the outriggers now being used, the basics of the new devices are: the Lofstrand-type crutch, a short ski (approximately 12 to 18 in. long), and a swivel (Figs. 1 and 2 ). Unlike earlier outriggers which used a bolt or other metal point, the Flip-ski utilizes the ski itself as the spike; that is, the ski can be converted to a poling or walking crutch literally in a split second. To effect the change, the skier simply lifts the ski from the snow surface and clasps a remote-control cord located on the hand grip (Fig. 3 ). The spring-loaded ski then flips up and locks into a vertical position with 35 deg. of free travel to accommodate all skiing maneuvers (Figs.4 and 5 ).

The second important innovation in the new device is the incorporation of a braking feature that allows even a rank beginner to slow down or stop without difficulty. The braking action is obtained by dragging a specially shaped claw, attached to the tail of the ski, on the snow's surface. To effect this action, the skier leans forward a little more than usual, thus lowering the crutch shafts to a more horizontal position. This maneuver tilts the skis upward and allows the claws on the tails to dig into the snow.

The Flip-ski swivel unit mates with most standard forearm crutches and is available both with and without skis and crutches from Mr. Ed Pauls, Route 1, Box 615P, Excelsior, Minn.

Testing Experience

Since this is only our second year of operation as an amputee and handicapped ski group, our experience is not as extensive as that of many other groups around the country. The testing which has been carried on during this past year has included 26 skiers with a variety of disabilities. These disabilities include not only unilateral amputations, but also bilateral above-knee losses (two young ladies, one of whom was with us last year); a young lady with a diagnosis of myelomeningocele; two others with polio, one with unilateral lower-extremity involvement and the other with bilateral lower-extremity as well as trunk involvement; and a young boy with cerebral palsy. Without exception, all these individuals have been tremendously pleased with the remote-control Flip-ski, particularly in comparison with the manually operated spike type of outrigger.

The instructors in this program have been very satisfied with this new device since it does away with the operation that was necessary with the other devices commonly used in amputee ski programs. This involved pushing the spike down to operate as a brake, or releasing the catch to raise the spike for skiing.

Recreation Department Gillette State Hospital for Crippled Children St. Paul, Minnesota

References:
1. Ditmer, Joanne, Fun on one leg and three skis, Inter-Clin. Information Bull., 8:19-24, Dec. 1968. 
2. Messner, Duane G., A modified outrigger for three-track skiing, Inter-Clin. Information Bull., 9:9-11, Sept. 1970. 
3. Stanek, William F., Report of the juvenile amputee ski program, Inter-Clin. Information Bull., 8:1-10, June 1969.