I first met Ed some years ago when he was 14 years old. He has a condition called Arthrogryposis which means his joints don’t bend. He was quite small (for a 14 year old) when I met him, he weighed next to nothing and had very little muscle mass. He skis in a biski and, at first he didn’t have enough movement to move the biski from side to side alone so he was bucketed. This means an instructor holds onto the back of the biski and has complete control of speed and line. He loved going fast and was happy to be dependent on an instructor so long as he got a buzz from the speed.
A couple of years ago we noticed that he was a little more flexible and as he has got older he has got more movement, better balance and he really, really wants to be as independent as is possible.
So today we tried something new…
He can’t hold hand held outriggers and the fixed outriggers on the Mountain Man are too restrictive on the terrain we were skiing. Normally, we would need to use some kind of outrigger, however we tried to ski without any at all and relied Ed’s balance and control of his movement to keep the biski upright and turning. We used tethers to keep his speed under control to allow him to make what movement he could while staying safe!
Normally, tethering a biski we would use 2 tethers. An experienced tetherer can tilt the biski and make it turn without any input from the skier. They can also allow the skier to tilt and turn as much as they are able before actively “finishing the turn” for them using the tethers.
With Ed tethering like this was very successful.
However, we didn’t stop there. Ed doesn’t have a huge amount of independence due to his condition but we wanted to see how much he could do alone. So, we tried using only one tether. With one tether the tetherer can control the speed to allow the skier to move but they can’t influence the skier’s movement and how much tilt the ski has at all. At first, it was difficult for Ed to judge how far he could lean before he fell, however, after a few attempts he started to get the feel for it and skied successfully for about 200m relying totally on his own movements to steer the ski where he wanted to go.
Ed’s brother wanted to find out what it felt like to ski in Ed’s biski. First, he had a bucket ride and then he tried to balance and move the ski without outriggers with only one tether, the same as Ed had been doing. He quickly realised that what Ed was doing wasn’t as easy as it looked!