By Kim Seevers, Program Development and Grants Director
In the not-for-profit world 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 comes along that tips the scales of student learning in favor of success. At ASF, we’ve been turning over our rental fleet for the past two seasons, and ski boots were on the agenda for this past summer. Seems like a pretty standard purchase, but ASF staff members may have stumbled on an exciting new piece of adaptive equipment; the Full Tilt ski boot.
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 3-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 were all in the boots. 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.
With that round about 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. He wears ankle-foot orthoses 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 who was on our race team and 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 our old rental boots with a fleet of new Full Tilts. Less than 20 days into the season, having the Full Tilts available for our students has paid tremendous dividends for skiers with foot, ankle, and lower leg problems.
One such student is 14 year old Caroline Naulty. Caroline is able to walk and wears AFOs to stabilize her gait, but could not wear conventional ski boots. Because of that, she has been relegated to the bi-ski on previous trips to ASF. All that changed over Christmas week. Her Mom and Dad told us about their visit to Adaptive Sports Foundation in a brief letter.
“It started with Chris fitting Caroline Naulty with boots. Caroline is a 14 year old girl who is non-verbal and has a neurological disorder known as Partial Agenesis of the Corpus Callosum but expresses herself in ways we all know. We found this wonderful program (Adaptive Sports Foundation) that focuses on her abilities not her disabilities. Chris told us to come in on Thursday so he could try the new Full Tilt boots to see if Caroline would be comfortable in them. She tried them on and Kim, Chris and Jimmer were all very positive and Caroline walked around the room without complaining. That was the beginning of the Magic Boots which would give Caroline an opportunity to ski. So when Friday came around it was up to the instructors to see if they could get Caroline to enjoy skiing. The Magical Instructors were Brooke, Kathleen, and Bruce. They were very positive and wanted to make this a win experience for Caroline, which it was. In the morning we went to the beginners slope with the magic carpet. Caroline was on her way to skiing standing up with assistance. Bruce suggested he use a pole for Caroline to put her hands on and Brooke would tether her from behind. Although Caroline complained a little because it was hard work, she did enjoy her freedom and trying something new. In the afternoon, we went to K lift where Caroline used the pole to hold onto as well as the tether. She was able to use the chair lift which gave her the time to rest in between her runs down the hill. We had a chair with us in the event she needed a break. On one run the instructors brought her over to us for a break and Caroline fell asleep for a few minutes- a power nap. She then proceeded to ski several more times down the hill.
It was a wonderful day for all of us to see Caroline ski and enjoy the time. She promptly fell asleep in the car for the ride home. We look forward to participating in the ski program as much as possible this year and in the years to come. Caroline has used the bi-ski which she really enjoys and is now also able to ski standing up with the assistance of her Magical instructors and Magic boots. Our thanks go out to the Adaptive Sports Foundation for giving Caroline an opportunity to ski. The patience and positive reinforcement given by the instructors gave Caroline an experience she will always remember. Since Kim is an expert skier and racing instructor, I told her one day I want to see her take Caroline down the hill and she agreed. I intend to hold her to it! I also want to thank all of the people at Adaptive Sports Foundation who have taken an interest in Caroline and have expressed positive comments to her.
Rob, Betsy and Caroline Naulty