Sit skis consist of frames made of metal tubing with a binding system and a bucket or seat with a strapping system that ensures the athlete has a snug fit in their bucket. Two skis attach to a binding system that consist of a normal Nordic binding on the front of the ski and another connecting point at the back end of the sit ski.
All three classes use Cross Country skis. Standing and VI athletes can train and race in both the skate and classic technique, using the appropriate equipment for each technique. Sit skiers use the same skis with one binding attached to the front of the sit ski and another system that holds the back of the sit ski onto the ski as well.
There are many of different sit skis designs out there. Finding out what works best for each individual you need to take in consideration the level of injury and maneuverability of the skier. The fit of the skier into the seat should be as snug and comfortable as possible. Padding may be necessary to ensure a good fit and prevent pressure sores. Talk with your skier when helping them with their fit to make sure they have adequate padding everywhere. Additional straps and weight belts can be used to help augment the fit and enable efficient transfer of the skier’s movements to create forward momentum. It is recommended to have extra padding in different sizes and thicknesses and extra straps around to help in this fitting process. Keep in mind this is often a trial and error process the first few times out with a new skier.
Keep in mind when fitting a sit skier:
- A skier with one or two legs may keep their legs in front of them in a chair like position or tuck their feet underneath their seat
- Skiers with a higher level spinal cord injury who have less core stability often require a higher seat back and may want their knees pulled into their chest for additional support. A seat back too high will limit the range of motion and impair balance and rotary movement, hindering the athlete’s control
- Athlete with low level spinal cord injuries or amputations have the option of angling their seat with the back of their bucket higher than the front. This puts them in a more powerful position for poling. This position is only for those with a high level of core function, as the seat provides very little stability
- A frame lower to the ground enhances control and stability. Ideally the skier can reach both hands to the ground, enabling them to use their hands and the tops of their poles to aid in breaking. A lower position will also make it easier to get up from a fall. A frame higher from the ground enhances the athlete’s potential to create power. Every skier is unique and may want to try a few different positions to find the ideal balance of stability and power for their capabilities.
Poles are used by all Para Nordic athletes as well and are fit in the same manner as skiers without a disability. Athletes missing all or part of their arm/s do not use a pole/s. These are no different from what is used in any other kind of cross country skiing.
Fitting for Standing Athletes: Classic poles should fit uncomfortably under the skier’s armpit and skate poles should reach between a skier’s chin and nose.
Fitting for Sitting Skiers: Poles will fit similar to standing skiers, poles will fit uncomfortably underneath their armpits while in their sit ski, this varies by personal preference.
Standing athletes and VI athletes use the same Cross Country ski boots as athletes without disabilities, one boot for skate skiing and a different boot for classic, or a combination boot that can be used for both skate and classic techniques. Skate boots have stiffer soles and higher ankle cuffs to provide more stability. Classic boots tend to be lower cut and the soles are more flexible as the classic stride necessitates constant bending movement of the foot. Combination boots have a softer sole to allow the flex in the sole for classic skiing but also have higher ankle cuff to support skate skiing. Boots should fit snugly, without heel movement while walking, like a running or walking shoe. For skiers using a prosthetic, you may need to add padding or make other adjustments to make sure the foot snugly fits in the boot.
Cross Country skiers dress in layers of light weight clothing and try to avoid materials such as cotton or really heavy layers, to allow the athlete to take a layer or two off if need be if they warm up throughout their ski. They wear lighter weight gloves and hat as well.
Visually Impaired Skiers
VI skiers and racers follow a guide while skiing. An athlete with a visual impairment who has enough vision to feel comfortable skiing without a guide has the option to do so. Many guides use a headset microphone and speaker system to call out directions for the skier through the course.