The new CADS Instructors Manual describes the recommended progression for sit skiers as very similar to the CSIA progression for able bodied skiers
- Get used to moving in the equipment on flat ground
- Straight run on very shallow hill
- Single left run
- Single right run
- Linking two turns
- Linking multiple turns
- Stopping (Hockey stop)
- Start to increase the terrain
Which suggests that tethers are mostly unnecessary. But if I look at how we teach sit skiing at my home program we really don’t do that. After step 1 we take the sit skier up the chair lift, and we ski a whole green run down, with many linked turns, but with the tethers tight and the tetherer doing most of the work. The progression from there is about slowly lessening the tethers and transferring responsibility, for initiating turns, speed control, route planning to the skier over many runs on the same hill.
So why do we do that, or put another way, why don’t we do it the way the manual recommends? I think it’s a safety issue, not for our skiers but for other hill users. Our CADS program runs on Saturdays and Sundays, which are the busiest days for ski school. The bunny hill (which is fairly small to begin with) is full of 3-8-year old’s who spend half their time lying down. Introducing a 150 lb adult in 50lb sit ski into that area, with or without a tetherer, would be a recipe for disaster. So the CADS program doesn’t use the bunny hill, at least not for sit skis.
If you aren’t going to use the bunny hill then you have to use the chair lift, and then you have to come down a whole green run. And if you are going to come down green run with a first time ever sit skier, then safety demands tight tethers and a tetherer making the decisions.
I don’t think this is wrong, its an appropriate adaptation to the environment. But I think we should recognize that it’s a compromise. I’ve had a couple of opportunities to teach new sit skiers with a bunny hill available, and I’ve been able to get them turning off tethers under control within a couple of hours something that has taken weeks or even seasons using the “slowly loosen the tethers” approach.
Caveat: Sit Skiers have a wide range of abilities and disabilities, when writing this, I had in mind teaching skiers who could ultimately ski independently. There are some sit skiers who will need quad skis and tethers indefinitely, but still enjoy the sport.