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Fresh off a 5th place finish in Bormio, Italy, last week, Bode Miller now stands atop the World Cup downhill standings. But what most people don’t know is that Miller is also currently leading the revolution in adaptive ski technology.
With his charity Turtle Ridge Foundation, this winter Miller will unveil a signature mono-ski for the adaptive ski community. Launched in 2005, Turtle Ridge Foundation’s mission is “to provide a voice through organizations which empower the adaptive sports community and to offer the opportunity to young people to participate in a variety of sports and recreational opportunities.”
In 1997, Miller’s lifelong friend Cameron Shaw-Doran was in a car accident that left him paralyzed from the chest down. Miller witnessed the obstacles his friend faced throughout his recovery. “Bode was extremely supportive mentally and financially in getting me back into sports and into the everyday life,” says Shaw-Doran. “He saw my challenges getting back on the hill. He was instrumental in helping me overcome my disability.”
So, with Miller’s support, Shaw-Doran set his mind on getting back to one of the things he loved best: skiing. Beyond the obvious physical obstacles, one of the biggest challenges for adaptive skiers is cost. The price for a competitive mono-ski is $4,500-$7,000—that’s on top of normal ski costs like lift tickets and clothing.
Learning from his friend’s experience how cost-prohibitive adaptive skiing is, Miller launched Turtle Ridge Foundation with the hope of increasing the accessibility of equipment to the adaptive ski community, to support youth in adaptive sports, improve safety, and to improve existing mono-skis, as well as to provide opportunities to sports to those who might not otherwise have them. “We want people to enjoy that experience that Bode and I were lucky to grow up with,” says Shaw-Doran, who now sits on TRF’s board, races on the Adaptive Alpine circuit, and coaches youth in adaptive sports.
This winter, TRF opens a new chapter with the unveiling of its first mono-ski prototype. “Bode’s knowledge of ski design is world-renowned,” says Shaw-Doran. So, TRF tapped into one of the world’s best skiers and his knowledge of ski design for able-bodied skiers—Miller is credited for revolutionizing the sport when he introduced shaped skis—to help develop and now launch a mono-ski for the adaptive community. “Up until this point, we’ve been supporting adaptive sports by giving donations to other foundations like the Boys and Girls Club, New England Disabled Sports and to others in need, but now we’re going to build our own skis, build them better, but more importantly make mono-skis more available to the people that need them,” says Shaw-Doran, who has been working closely with Miller and a top engineering professor from MIT to develop the prototype, partuclalry to make it stronger, safer, faster, better, and more affordable and assessable for those that need them.
“TRF is tackling the development of new and improved mono-skis— building them and giving them to people who need them. We’re a non-profit and just want to improve opportunities for others. There’s no profit motive— we’re just producing skis for people who need them with input from Bode Miller, one of the best skiers on the planet,” says Shaw.
And if Miller’s results this season are any indication, these skis will be on fire. To contribute to TRF, please visit Turtle Ridge Foundation.