In the not-for-profit realm of adaptive instruction, it’s all about giving back. This usually comes in a human form; a volunteer, a donor, a board member, or a grant maker. Sometimes, however, something unexpected, like a piece of gear, comes along that makes a huge impact on student learning.
At New York’s Adaptive Sports Foundation, where I’m the program development and grants director, we’ve been turning over our rental fleet for the past two seasons. Ski boots were on the wish list this past summer, which is typically a pretty standard purchase, however staff members stumbled on a game-changing new piece of adaptive equipment: the Full Tilt ski boot.
This modern boot has a storied past. Many who were skiing back in the ‘80s fondly remember the Raichle Flexon Comp; in fact, a surprising number of people are still skiing theirs. The Flexon Comp was an innovative three-piece design that flexed without bulging or distorting the lower boot shell, a common problem in those days. The boot became popular with skiers from all walks of sliding; hotdoggers, mogul skiers, and racers alike. After Raichle went out of business in 1996, the molds were kicked around to a few companies, but the Flexon Comp essentially died. Skiers who were dedicated to the Flexon Comp – and there were many – were forced to scrounge around for replacement parts to keep the boots on their feet. In 2006, the original molds were purchased by a group of skiers and boot fitters and the Flexon Comp came back to life as the Full Tilt.
HOW DO THESE BOOTS IMPROVE ADAPTIVE SKIING?
With that roundabout introduction, you may be wondering where adaptive skiing fits into the picture. The Full Tilt features a hinged tongue that opens up, much like a convertible top. With the tongue out of the way, the student’s foot slides in and out with comfort and is never blocked. Because there are only three working pieces, the boot is twice as light as most conventional designs (great for our students with muscle weakness) and has a wide toe box.
We first recommended the boot a few years ago for a young man with arthrogryposis – a rare condition that involves stiff or contracted joints. He wears ankle-foot orthoses (AFOs) and had trouble getting his feet and ankles into ski boots. A local shop owner took interest in his dilemma and set him up with a pair of Full Tilts and the world turned! Later that season, we recommended the boots for another boy on our race team who also has arthrogryposis. They have made an amazing difference in his comfort and performance as well.
Based on those two outcomes, we decided to replace some of our old rental boots with a fleet of new Full Tilts. After an entire season we can positively say that having the Full Tilts available for our students with disabilities has paid tremendous dividends for those with foot, ankle, and lower leg problems.
This article by Kim Seevers originally appeared in the Spring 2019 issue of 32 Degrees. Seevers is the program development and grants director for New York’s Adaptive Sports Foundation, and the former education director for PSIA-AASI. Log in now to the online version to access the rest of the article and other great content that will up your instructor game.