Adaptive Ski Wear

Research sit-skiers, determine user needs, design & build prototype

Project Summary: B.I.D. Thesis (2011-2012)

This was an 8-month project with the key focus on redesigning sit-skier apparel.  The general goal was to find a solution to a barrior of entry for athletes with disabilities. Since I have a history of working as a ski instructor, I know what a difference a students’ clothing can make to the enjoyment of the sport. Comfort, fit, and the ability to move are crucial. I would argue that these key aspects are even more important for sit-skiers.

sit-skiing21st prototype

User Testing
I volunteered with the local CADs association for the ski season (approximately 8-weeks) and worked with sit-skiers and ski assistants who had been volunteering with the program for many years.  I did a range of on-hill observation and off-hill testing to discover the problems of off-the-shelf jackets and pants that the athlets were wearing. When the skiers were in the sit-ski, it was fairly easy to see where things were bunching up and straining. I could also spot areas of rubbing and specific touch-points.

concept sketches

Feature Development
By context mapping a few of the sit-skiers’ experiences, I realized that this ski suit must also take into account the needs of the ski assistant.  Features were developed for both the sit-skier and their assistant. Features for the sit-skier included a unique cut/pattern for the seated form, large easy-grip zipper pulls, more durable fabrics at friction points around the arms, and a temperature monitoring system. Features for the assistants mainly consisted of high-friction fabrics at touch points for lifting the skier in and out of the sit-ski equipment.


I built this jacket prior to any pattern drafting courses.  Once I came up with my own design, I started from an existing jacket pattern, manipulating it and testing it in muslin until it resembled what I wanted. It was really challenging but it was fascinating and what prompted me to continue my fashion and pattern drafting education after completing my undergrad in Industrial Design.

Feel free to check out my Thesis Report on the Ski Suit here!