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Roam Elevate is a computer-driven exoskeleton that anticipates turns and adjusts knee and quad support to aid the skier’s natural motion. It helps people ski stronger and longer by offloading up to 30% of the user’s body weight from the skier’s quads and by reducing painful knee joint compression.

Elevate can be rented at several Western ski resorts and will be available for sale next season.

To get a better understanding of how Elevate works on the hill, we asked Rick Hovey to give it a test drive.

Rick Hovey and his signature turns.

Rick is 65 and is a longtime resident of Park City. A Level II PSIA instructor, he skis 100+ days a year. Last season, despite a diagnosis of chondromaiacia patella (arthritic knees), he skied one million vertical feet. 

Rick has put off recommended partial knee surgery, opting instead for Physical Therapy. He has given up teaching and reduced his time on the hill.

He tried the Roam Elevate a few weeks ago and submitted this report.

Clay, the Roam Robotics rep, showed me how to use the straps to attach the exoskeletons to my boots and then to my lower and upper legs.  It was simple.  

The product uses a slim backpack that contains a lightweight laptop, battery and compressor. Two connectors per side come out of the pack to attach to each exoskeleton. One connection is an air hose; the other is a connection to the computer.

While walking, the apparatus felt light and unencumbering, even if the exposed carbon fiber and wires made me feel a bit like RoboCop

We clicked into our skis as Clay explained the available settings. The controller is mounted on the shoulder strap and easy to use with gloved hands.  There are levels of assist and speed adjustments to suit your style and desired terrain. The speed adjustment sets how fast the computer tells the compressor to release the assistance pressure. In general, the idea is to quicken the speed adjustment for short radius turns or where unweighting is needed quickly. 

As soon as we pushed off I lost the sense I had an exoskeleton on and that it was assisting the load on my legs. It felt completely natural and improved my sense of stability.

There is a noticeable vibration from the compressor in the pack, which Clay says to think of it as a massage for your back (bonus!). The vibration became less noticeable after one lap.

A few runs later, we played around with different settings. I really liked the high assist and slow speed setting for the easy cruisers with long radius turns. I felt stronger and forgot about protecting my arthritic knee and I experienced more complete turns with less effort. It also gave me the confidence to lay down deeper carves than I would without the device.

We then changed the settings and tried linked, short radius turns on steeper groomers. I was impressed with how well this worked with no encumbrance of the inside ski hanging-up because the pressure was released right when needed. I used this same setting on a long bump run and was equally impressed. 

Roam Elevate backpack and control device

The apparatus always seemed to agree with what I was doing, while enhancing my skiing in a controlled and predictable way. 

I should mention the “chop.” Rough snow was on the edges of the groomed runs, just enough to rattle the bones if going fast… this is where I would normally take the first exit to Smoothsville. The Roam Elevate seemed to absorb the bumpiness; no jarring of the knee joints or loss of control. It was like a good suspension on a mountain bike.

After numerous fun and various runs, Clay and I did a final, fast top-to-bottom cruiser. At the bottom, I told Clay my legs and knees felt like I just skied one run, not eight! 

I would recommend the Roam Elevate to any skier who has knee and/or leg strength issues. And, if it helps you avoid surgery and extends your skiing life, the value could be great.

The Roam website is taking first-come, first-served reservations for a slimmed down, next generation product for $3500 (includes a 30% discount). To learn more, click on the Roam Elevate ad on the home page.

2 Comments

  1. It sounds like a nice adaptive device for frail skiers. However, like computer-assisted driving in vehicles, it works great until it doesn’t. I’d hate to think what might happen if the device suddenly decided to turn me left, instead of right.

    • Hey Tom,
      I just wanted to clarify what the Elevate is doing. There is no “computer-assisted” aspect. The exoskeleton only assists an individual with the movements they are already doing. By no means will the device force you into a turn other than what you have initiated. The design and computer are there to monitor the skier’s position and motion and deliver pressure to the actuators accordingly.
      Our goal at Roam is to help those who are skiers ski longer and with less fatigue and pain.
      Cheers!

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