Jack Clark knows a thing or two about using a joystick, and about sliding on snow. On April 3, 2023, he got to use both of those skills simultaneously in the TetraSki at Stowe Mountain Resort.
Jack, who has cerebral palsy, has been skiing with Green Mountain Adaptive Sports since 2005, first as a stand-up skier using a slider supported by two instructors, and then, in the bi-ski purchased by Green Mountain Adaptive Sports.
Forward to 2023, and here comes the opportunity for Jack to try the TetraSki, the world’s first alpine sit-ski to provide independent turning and speed variability through the use of a joystick and/or breath control.
Controlling the TetraSki with the use of a joystick
Jack has spent many hours skiing at Spruce Peak, and at the Gondola over the years, but this was his first time riding the Sunrise Six-Pack lift. “It worked great for the TetraSki loading and it went really fast. It seemed like we were at the top in a few minutes,” recalls Jack.
Jack then adds, “I wasn’t really nervous. I guess I was more excited because I have experience driving with a joystick on my powerchair and I knew it would be fun.” He continues, “I also play video games with small joysticks and it helped me find the right feel.”
When asked to rate his experience, Jack does not hesitate for a second, “I rate it a 10! It was completely different learning for my body, and turning on snow.” Comparing his new experience to using the bi-ski Jack explains, “The TetraSki is definitely more mental, having to stay focused on my control of the joystick and visually where I am going. The bi-ski is more physical with my body making the turns. I think it would be great to do both each ski season because they both benefit me.”
This was the third time that the TetraSki was in Stowe this winter, thanks to a partnership between Green Mountain Adaptive Sports (GMAS), Cathy Webster (NDAA) and Nate Hanson of Adaptive Sports Partners (ASP), and the TRAILS and University of Utah’s New England Rep for the TetraSki. For the past two years, the groups have worked together to bring the TetraSki to Stowe for a day or two annually so that local and area athletes with complex disabilities can experience the joys of skiing in the robotic ski. Nate leads the lessons with great experience and skill. Stowe instructor Tom Hall, Cathy Webster, Robby Laughlin, and other GMAS Board members also joined all six sessions, with a morning and afternoon lesson, providing opportunities for two different users per day. Read more about the TetraSki below.
TetraSki is good for the mind and the body
Jack learned about the amazing benefits for his body the next day when he went to Pinnacle Physical Therapy. “My therapist Heather couldn’t believe how relaxed my muscles were. My spasticity is so tight it’s hard to bend any part of my body. She asked me what was going on. I told her about the TetraSki and she explained to me that it created lots of endorphins for me with my neuromuscular connections then relaxing my muscles and creating less spasticity. She was excited about the possibilities of this ski,” adds Jack.
TetraSki at Stowe for the 2024 Season
Keep your eyes peeled for more action on the TetraSki next year. GMAS and NDAA have been working on securing a TetraSki to be demoed for the season. With that will come some increased fundraising, instructor recruitment and training, and the need for more volunteers. Please let us know if you’d like to get involved in any of those ways by contacting us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Additionally, GMAS and NDAA hope to send one of our athletes to The Brian McKenna TetraSki Express in 2024, the National Championship in TetraSki and Snow’Kart downhill racing held annually at Powder Mountain Resort in Eden, UT. The event is hosted by TRAILS Adaptive (Technology, Recreation, Access, Independence, Lifestyle, Sports) at the University of Utah Health’s Craig H. Neilsen Rehabilitation Hospital.
About the TetraSki
The TetraSki represents technology that has finally caught up with our adaptive skiers’ dreams as it offers independent skiing for people with complex physical disabilities. Electric actuators on the TetraSki provide independent turning and speed variability through the use of a joystick or breath control, allowing the skier with limited strength and dexterity to operate the TetraSki safely and with a high degree of performance and independence. The TetraSki has been in development for more than six years with the University of Utah Rehabilitation Research and Development Team and is primarily supported by the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation. Beginning in 2018, TetraSkis were distributed to adaptive programs across the U.S. and included a comprehensive training package for instructors and participants. Skiers took to the slopes and skied independently for the first time since a tragic accident, illness, or often for the first time ever. NBC’s Today Show featured the TetraSki in March 2019, and the ski was introduced internationally at the 2019 World Para Alpine Skiing Championships in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia.
Erik Kondo, also discussed the TetraSki in his blog Incremental Universal Design and the Accessibility Continuum. According to the author, the TetraSki is the only device that is universally accessible to all categories of skiers from high quad to able-bodied. The author points out that as a practical matter, each category of skier will gravitate towards the option geared to their specific strengths and weaknesses, and that in alpine skiing, the Accessibility Continuum means that people of diverse abilities get to ski in some manner. The process that achieved this result was Incremental Universal Design. Subscribe to the Red Pill Innovations Blog for more information on fun and exciting recreational activities through promoting performance based adaptive mobility devices.
Photo and video credit: Wendy Nunez, GMAS Board of Directors.
Read more stories about Jack Clark
Meet the GMAS athletes: https://greenmtnadaptive.org/about/meet-our-athletes/jack-1/
Recent GMAS blog post: https://greenmtnadaptive.org/redefining-perceptions-of-disability-to-the-beat-of-a-ski-dance/
Spruce Life Magazine: https://www.sprucepeak.com/spruce-life-old/stowes-adaptive-athletes