Tom’s Bio


Taking the DIS out of disABILITY

My SITSKI Bio.


I love to ski and this is why.

My friend Kirsty put it best when she said:

“I wonder if people realize the restraints that I am freed from when I ski?
There is no other time that I can move with such speed and agility than when I am skiing.
The freedom it gives me helps be more accepting of my injury.
I don’t think that anyone understands this until they have (lived) it.”



Here I am teaching my daughter Nicole how to ski circa 2004


I started skiing in 1977 with my Jr. High school ski club. My then science teacher Mr. Thompson ran the ski club and always pushed the kids to get involved. I did and I was hooked on day one. I skied standing up from 1977 to 1981 as much as I could and became pretty good at it. But in the summer of 1981 I had an injury and stand up skiing was gone from my life. On a side note 18 years later Mr. Thompson became my SCUBA instructor.

The winter of 1995 marked a major accomplishment for me.
I skied for the first time in 14 years. Now I do it sitting down.
I am a C6-C7 incomplete quadriparetic. I was paralyzed from a surfing accident
(ocean not web). Anyway one day I was watching ESPN
on TV and there it was The Mono-ski!
I had heard about “disabled skiing” when I ws first injured and saw a picture of the original sitski I was not impressed. I just thought it was some lame answer to getting disabled people on the snow. Although it could be skied independently loading it on and off the lift required assistance. But when I saw a mono-skiers in the paralympics on TV I knew that is what I needed to do. That is skiing. Pressure, edging, rotary, balance, air, and carving. I was amazed such equipment existed. Back then the mono-ski most of the pro’s were using was a design by Jim Martinson the father of the Shadow Mono-ski. With a little detective work I found a “disabled ski program” and took a lesson. After one lesson I was hooked, after five lessons I dropped the cash and purchased my first mono-ski by Grove Innovations
Total freedom just like before, only faster and my legs NEVER get tired.

Sit

Mono

Bi


Today the sitski is one of many sitting adaptive skiing devices. Basically it is a frame a seat called a “bucket” it has a mono shock and for the most part it mounts to regular ski any standup skier would use. Your poles are called outriggers with articulating skis tips on them.
When I was first learning to ski sitting down it was confusing to me with the different equipment.
Sit, Mono and Bi… what? And most of the volunteer instructors were totally clueless about the equipment. Well no program around even had a sit-ski it was so out dated “Thank God.” The Mono-ski and Bi-ski was easy to find at most every program. But talking to friends when ever I mentioned I am skiing a mono-ski they thought of the wide plank single ski. Even in the early days of web surfing, searching for mono-ski or monoski I would find this thing. There was almost nothing on the web in 1995 for what was then called “disabled skiing”, most searches would bring up standing disabled skiers such as amputee’s. Not what I was looking for. No cool equipment for me to drool over and there were only a few programs on-line and no photos of equipment, that really bothered me.

I wanted to know who has this equipment? what are my choices? & what does it look like? Finding the information I wanted at the time was not easy. Both domains mono-ski and monoski were about the stand up thing. Well back then I had a web site for my custom guitar shop called Custom Ax. I created a ski page and started posting my skiing adventures and learning curve on the mono-ski. I posted one page about my first lesson including a few images and in no time I was getting hits. Before long I was getting more hits on my ski page then on my guitar page. It was time to make a web site with the content I wanted for my re-found passion of skiing only now it was sit style. So I did just that. As political correctness came to the forefront the word “disabled” was out and the word “adaptive” was in.

I started thinking of a domain for my new web site. I primarily wanted to cater to my peeps in the sitting down community but I did not want to excluded any physical challenges. My reality is everything I do, I do sitting and I ski sitting. Weather it is a Bi-ski, a Mono-ski, a Dual-ski the person skiing it is sitting. The very first piece of equipment for such a skier was called the sitski. So there you have it. I registered the domain Sitski.com in 1997. And I titled it Extreme Adaptive Sports. “Adaptive Sports” because any sport can be adapted to suit any physical challenge. “Extreme” because one of the definitions for the word extreme is “beyond the norm”, well what is the “norm” for a person in a wheelchair? Certainly not THIS!


I like to put it this way:

“If it gets you out of your wheelchair and in the face of danger, It is Extreme!”

Once sitski.com was up and running I posted everything I could find about adaptive skiing and sports.
Sitskiing opened my mind and eyes to my real abilities so I ventured out and tried other sports such as: Handcycling, SCUBA diving, Glider Flying, Canoeing, Mountain Biking, &Water Skiing. I was blown away by what was possible with a little effort and thinking out side the box. At a mountain bike camp I was talking to a friend of mine Sarah Will who is a paralympics gold medal winning mono-skier and in my opinion “The Best” mono-skier on the planet. She said “poeple like us take the dis out of disability. That spoke to me in a big way so “Taking the DIS out of disABILITY” became the theme for sitski.com. The year before I started sitskiing I had a miracle in my life. My first daughter was born.
The doctors had told me I could not father children, but I did. I was a new daddy and family man. And even though these other sports were fun they were time consuming and costly. I worked full time and my plate was full. I have to pick my battles in life. Skiing was and is my passion. The other sports could not hold a candle to it in my mind. And nothing could compare to being a dad. But the experience of trying these other sports, writing about them and posting images so others could see what is possable for them is priceless. Many people contacted me to say I checked this or that out on your site and I tried it and found my passion again. That is what it is all about. Passion!

I logged every day I skied in my season log. I posted what I skied, where I skied and with who. Equipment, Programs, Lodge Access Reviews, Skis, binding & suspension reviews etc. And images lots of images. A picture tells a thousand words well a video tells a billion. So I posted videos too. I offered single skis for many years to sitskiers for dirt cheap. I am not one to talk about something I don’t know about so I felt it was important to get some ski credentials behind me so my logs and reviews would have some merit. So I volunteered at The Adaptive Sports Foundation ASF at Windham mountain and received the proper training to aquire my PSIA ski instructor certification. I loved it so much I went for another level. I love teaching I love connecting with my student and giving them the joy of freedom on snow. I was also recruited to work as a mountain Ambassador at
Hunter Mountain After six years of teaching I took a back seat to working for a ski school because of time constraints. But I will be teaching again. It’s in my blood. My time working as a ski instructor overlapped my time working as a mountain Ambassador for a few years and I must say I loved turning Pro. Working in the snow sports industry is a dream come true for me.

Being a mechanically inclined person a tool guy and gear head. I love equipment. If it is bolted or welded together I’m in. I have always love fixing, modifying and improving things. I learned right away I had to be my own sitski mechanic. I had to adjust the foot rest and seat. Then get a single ski from somewhere that was a nightmare in it’s self. Then too mount a custom binding to that ski. Right out of the box with my first sitski I was learning how to wrench on them. Yeah I jumped in head first and just soaked up everything I could learn about sitskis, bindings and skis. Over the years the sitski industry progressed from custom block type bindings provided by the manufacturer to a boot type foot that fit into a standard binding. The block type was a good system in that your sitski was bolted to the ski and it would not release. However it was a limited system in that the blocks did not work with new ski technology and integrated binding systems. Also most ski shops do not have the proper jigs or templates for mounting these “odd” bindings. I did, so I mounted a countless number of skis on my little ski bench for myself and others who sent me their equipment.

Over the years I became a sitski ski mounting guru. I did not like the block system for this simple reason. Putting bolts through holes you have to line up in the cold on snow with wind and freezing fingers is a horror show. And I was limited to what skis I could use with their binding. That bothered me. So with my design background and CNC skills I designed and made boot systems for the sitski so it could plug into any ski with a standard binding. I also made adapter plates and I figured out how to pin just about any standard binding that could be pinned so it would not release. I began to buy and sell used sitskis and even reconditioning and
repairing sitskis for people. An absolute labor of love for me. With my welding and fabricating skills I built some custom one off pieces of equipment to meet specific individual’s needs. Like this mini hand cycle for my friends daughter and my own personal sitski. Never the ski purest I have mounted a snowboard a Prior carve board and even a skwall on my sitski just to see if I was missing out on any carving performance or excitement. Maybe next I will mount a ski blade just to see what that is all about.

Sitsking is not all that different from stand up, balance, pressure, edging and rotary, is the name of this game. We just get the movment from the lowest part of our body our body will allow. It is not as difficult as you would think. It’s like riding a bike in a sense that it is easy to balance when you are moving. Did you ever try to stay in one place on a bicycle and balance yourself, not fun. But once
you start to move inertia does it’s thing and life is good.


It’s a blast! If you know anyone who is physically challenged, turn them on to this.

I wish I found out about sitskiing when I was first injured.

I give a special Thanks to my buddy Bill.


He gave me the push I needed to get on the slopes.

He was there to help in any way, and to get me

to be an independent skier once again. Thank you Bill!

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