Headed to Black Diamonds: DynAccess Ltd.’s Contributions to Adaptive Ski Technology since 2011


Adaptive alpine skiing has grown in popularity and in accessibly in recent years, due to the efforts made to create adaptive equipment and host competitions for para skiers. Many organizations are helping athletes participate in adaptive sports, among them Move United and the American Association of Adapted Sports Programs. We will look first at the broader history of competitive adaptive skiing and the development of adaptive ski technology, before highlighting the contributions made by one of these companies, DynAccess Ltd.

Sgt. Anthony Larson using a mono-ski and outriggers in Vail in 2007. Image by a U.S. military or Department of Defense employee, taken or made as part of that person’s official duties, and as a work of the U.S. federal government, the image is in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The History of Adaptive Skiing

The first competition for skiers with disabilities was held in Badgastein, Austria in 1948. Since then, the movement to be more inclusive towards persons with disabilities through adaptive competitive skiing has expanded, helping to open the sport to a wider range of athletes. The first Winter Paralympics were hosted in Sweden in 1976 with Slalom and Giant Slalom, with Downhill Skiing added at the 1984 games and Super-G in 1994. According to data provided by International Paralympic Committee, every Paralympic Games since their inception in 1974 saw increased participation, until 2014 when there was a slight dip in the numbers.

Paralympic Skiing has the same categories that standard Olympic Alpine Skiing uses. Since there are many types of disabilities, accommodations must be made to the courses and scoring for safety and equity purposes. P. David Howe noted in his 2008 article that it was difficult to get viewers’ and media attention under the highly ordered and complicated categories-based system that had originally existed. This system had reduced athletes to what they were unable to do, rather than focusing on what they could do.

In 1996, the functional classification system was introduced. The system focused on athletes’ capabilities, rather than their disabilities, in an attempt to create a more progressive classification process. Under the current scoring design, three different categories of competition and scoring systems allow all the categories to compete against each other. The categories are sitting, standing, and vision impaired, based on the athlete’s unique challenges. While it’s difficult to level the playing field perfectly for athletes with different abilities, having fewer categories based on the athletes’ previously achieved accomplishments was a solution that tried to increase fairness, while still encouraging competition between athletes.

The Development of Adaptive Skiing Technology

Given the many types of disabilities, special equipment is needed that can be adapted to these different levels of ability. Varying types of adaptive skis have been designed to meet the specific requirements of the athletes. Over the years, progress has been made to develop devices that target those needs.

As early as the 1940s, outriggers, which are crutch-like devices with added ski tips, could be used by single-leg amputees. In the 1960s, inventors began to create a type of ski that would allow people who used wheelchairs to ski. A mono-ski is a seat above a single ski, where outriggers are used to control the speed and direction of the user. In 1980, the first mono-ski was invented, which opened the slopes to a new range of skiers. By 1986, mono-skis were allowed to be used in the Paralympic Games in Innsbruck, Austria. In 1998, mono-skiing was introduced as a medal event at the Winter Paralympics in Nagano, Japan.

By 1986, the bi-ski was invented, although several inventors could claim to have created the first model. This ingenious device allowed people with more severe coordination and balance disabilities to try skiing. The bi-ski features a seat above two skis, instead of one, which creates more support for the user. Moreover, an instructor can help guide the user of a bi-ski, making it safer for people with more limited abilities.

DynAccess Ltd.

The story of DynAccess Ltd. begins with one member of the current DynAccess team and a former student, who lost the ability of his legs in a mountain bike accident. The team member invited the student to go skiing but was disappointed by the available mono-skis. Many were broken and poorly designed. The member joined forces with mechanical technician Bill Maroun to adapt the mono-ski to meet the specific needs of adaptive skiers. The predominant issues were design flaws and durability issues. Para-athletes could not use their legs to sustain an impact from the bumps of runs, so the improved models had to address these problems. The team worked with the Penske Racing Shocks company to create a lighter design with better absorption that could make turns more easily. It was called Torque 1.

As the years have passed and the company has gained more exposure, the sales have increased. Even with this gradual success, DynAccess Ltd. chose to stick to a small business model. This scale has allowed DynAccess Ltd. to foster a close sense of community with its clientele. Unlike other companies like Enabling Technologies that address the needs of a wide range of adaptive athletes, DynAccess Ltd. has focused more on intermediate to advanced skiers, including professional Paralympians. An interview with one of the DynAccess team revealed that adaptive ski technology is inherently a small-scale market. This allows for a tight bond between the company and the athletes who use its gear.

Because the total market of Adaptive Ski Equipment is still so specific, DynAccess Ltd.’s customer base spreads far across the country and even overseas. Their market is based mostly in the Northeast and the West, where skiing is especially popular. They reach far beyond the location of their shop in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, selling products to customers in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Europe. Sometimes they will have in-person fittings at their shop. They even will make efforts to reach their customers by driving out and skiing with them. They attend the Hartford Ski Spectacular, an annual adaptive ski event in Breckenridge, Colorado, organized by Move United. This winter sports festival draws thousands of participants each year. There, DynAccess does in-person fittings and skis with customers. Those efforts help them market their company and build their name within the industry. To spread the word, they use their social media accounts, like Facebook and Instagram. Not surprisingly, they get referrals from former customers.

Beyond their social media marketing, they have gained exposure from Paralympics athletes such as Chris Young. DynAccess Ltd.’s reputation sped up when Young adopted the Torque 2 Mono-ski and used it in a gold medal Downhill Run at the World Cup Final in Sochi. His win helped to put DynAccess Ltd. on the map. From there, the team developed more models for the mono-ski, including the Tensor, the Hydra, and the Hydra light. DynAccess Ltd. has gone on to become a provider of mono-skis to the U.S. National Paralympic team, the U.S. Paralympic Development team, and other race teams in the United States.

DynAccess Ltd.’s Hydra Mono-ski Model. Photo reproduced with permission from DynAccess Ltd.

The opportunities created by the Paralympics to generate higher-level competitions for adaptive sports athletes have and will continue to encourage equal access to the slopes. Collaboration between companies like DynAccess Ltd. and Paralympic Athletes has been essential to the industry.

As it develops its products, DynAccess Ltd. looks to Paralympians to help test their prototypes before bringing them to market. This process has been an important part of creating devices such as Torques 1 and 2, the Tensor, the Hydra, and the Hydra light. Beyond these general models, DynAccess Ltd. provides accessories that supply specific individual needs, including bucket seats, footrests, and shock absorbers.

The equipment can be expensive. Fortunately, several nonprofit foundations provide grants to make adaptive skiing more affordable and financially accessible. They include the High Fives Non-Profit Foundation, based in California, and the Kelly Brush Foundation, based in Vermont.

DynAccess Ltd.’s Impact on Adaptive Skiing

The disability community is full of individuals with unique needs. An important problem is that, as equipment becomes more adjustable, it becomes heavier, more complicated, and thus more prone to malfunctions. Thus, DynAccess has focused on lighter, simpler designs with enough adjustability to perform well. Their goal is to make durable, high-quality, technologically innovative mono-skis. This approach is antithetical to a one-size approach model. The company aims to meet individual customers’ specific needs.

DynAccess Ltd.’s devices are among those that are expanding the scope of access for adaptive athletes. Through their specific and adjustable designs, DynAccess Ltd. has helped pave the way for increased inclusivity and representation in the skiing community. The mere existence of their inventions and inclusion in competitive settings exemplify society’s move to being more accepting of para-athletes. The advancements in such technology show the time and money that is going towards efforts to make skiing accessible for every body type, not just the ones historically deemed as able-bodied.

The Positive Impacts of Adaptive Skiing on the Disabled Community

Efforts to make skiing more inclusive are advantageous for a multitude of reasons. First, there is evidence to support that quality of life improves from taking part in community-based adaptive ski programs. In a study done by Ramon B. Zabriskie, Neil R. Lundberg, and Diane Groff for the Therapeutic Recreation Journal in 2005, 80% of participants agreed that their quality of life improved by participating in community-based adaptive ski programs. Several findings from research done by Dr. David Frumberg et al. in 2019 suggest that adaptive sports programs can help prevent secondary disabilities like deconditioning, heart disease, obesity, and hypertension. They can also improve social skills and encourage the development of feelings of equality and confidence. Such studies reinforce the importance of inclusivity in sports and encourage directing resources toward the development of new technologies.

Programs that promote sports for people with disabilities improve individuals’ quality of life while promoting equal rights and treatment for those with disabilities. Through the representation of adaptive skiers on the slopes, more awareness is brought to other reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities. Those could include providing accessible parking and building access and modifying various work environments. Through this awareness, more aid can be extended to people with disabilities to be more included in all areas of life.


Regardless of the degree of ability or disability that a person has, skiing as a modern activity is made possible by technology. Those with physical challenges need technologies that are better suited to their individual needs. Adaptive skiing can only be made possible with aid from companies like DynAccess Ltd. Adaptive skiing benefits individuals’ quality of life while improving the holistic treatment of people with disabilities in many environments.


This blog post would not have been possible without the help from the DynAccess Ltd. Team for letting me interview them and providing me a photo of their work. I also want to thank Dr. Judith Miller for supporting me in creating this blog post.


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