Adaptive Ski Instructor Provides Advice on Predictable Issues for Returnees

Alisa Anderson, Smuggler’s Notch’s (VT) adaptive skiing program manager, is a highly-specialized PSIA instructor who, over the past 20 years, has applied techniques and tools for skiers of all kinds who need a little extra help getting down the mountain.

Adaptive Ski Instructor Alisa Anderson guides a student on the "Snow Slider" at Smuggler's Notch. Credit: Alisa Anderson
Adaptive Ski Instructor Alisa Anderson guides a student on the “Snow Slider” at Smuggler’s Notch.
Credit: Alisa Anderson

She trained at the National Sports Center for the Disabled, Winter Park, CO, where she learned how to use bi-skis, mono-skis, and outriggers. At Smuggler’s Notch, she purchased a “Snow Slider” which is basically a walker on skis. While these tools are mostly used with people who have chronic physical disabilities, she also helps people who can ski on their own skis get back to skiing after injury, accident, or knee, hip or shoulder replacement.

“It’s important that people coming back from an injury take a lesson from a trained instructor,” said Alisa. “One reason is to help them get through the natural apprehension that you’d expect after being through major surgery and a year or so of rehab. The other reason is to spot and correct physical mistakes before they become habits.”

Most people coming back after rehabilitation, she said, will clearly favor the healing side. “It’s natural. There’s been a trauma to the area, and the body wants to ‘save’ that side. What you see are people not pressing the ski on that side or being very tentative about flexing.” That stiffness is risky because the skier doesn’t have bi-lateral control.

People aren’t even aware they are favoring one side, she said. That’s where coaching comes in.

“If they continue to be stiff and one-sided, they are going to form some bad behaviors. Stiff muscles lead to fatigue, and the risk of injury goes up,” she said. “They need to be constantly in motion.”

The solution is for the instructor to give the student skier active feedback on what she sees. “Basically, I remind the student to focus on keeping pressure on the front of the boot and weight on the ball of the foot. It’s really back to the basics. It’s important for the skier to loosen up, extend, get tall and bend their joints into through the turn.”

Alisa says that one lesson might be all a skier needs, others, maybe a couple more. “Most people get it pretty quickly. It’s just a matter of getting through the first days doing it right.”

Alisa knows what she is talking about. In addition to her experience as an adaptive ski instructor, she’s also recovering from ACL reconstructive surgery. “I have to wear a brace. It reminds me all the time about what it’s like to be rehabbing. Sometimes, I don’t like wearing it, but I do it, and I’m still skiing.”


One Comment

  1. Alisa helped me after I had three spine surgeries that left me with a loss of feeling in both legs, but mostly the right. I spent years getting my strength back, but still could not balance on my right foot. But, I was ready to try skiing again – with some help from a pro. We tried a few things and settled on a bungee cord connecting the tips of my skis. Within three hours she had me back to skiing like an intermediate.

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