Trevor Kennison helped design this adaptive garment for sit-skiers
In December 2021, it had been snowing for weeks in British Columbia’s Monashee Mountains when Trevor Kennison arrived at Eagle Pass Heliskiing, eager to make some early-season powder turns. Kennison, 28, is a paraplegic from Winter Park, Colorado, who attacks the slopes on a sit-ski, an adaptive device with a single board attached to a bucket chair and two stabilizers strapped to his forearms. He lost the use of his legs after breaking his back in a snowboarding accident near Vail in 2015, but went on to become one of the sport’s craziest skiers. His 65,000 Instagram followers know him as #sitskiboss, a nickname he earned, in part, after rising to fame at the Kings and Queens of Corbet’s, a freeride event in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, in 2019.
Kennison, a muscular, bright-eyed guy with a mop of brown hair, charges hard, but his equipment hasn’t always been able to keep up. Very little technical clothing is designed for sit-skiers, so he spent much of the off-season working with his main sponsor, Eddie Bauer, to develop clothing that specifically caters to adaptive skiers like himself. The result – limited-edition bibs ($499) and a jacket ($549) – launched to the public on January 26.
His day at Eagle Pass in December was a final test drive in all conditions and the snow was waist deep and still falling. Because Kennison rolls lower than stand-up skiers, he squeezes through powder in conditions like this, almost disappearing completely as he dives into each turn. When he finally stops at the bottom of a run, he laughs and screams – snow is piled up in every nook and cranny of his gear.
Building high-performance outerwear for sit-skiers is a lot harder than it looks. Eddie Bauer’s set, dubbed BC Flyline, consists of the jacket and overalls, but the similarities to traditional ski wear end there. “The hardest part was the shaping,” says Dave Mertes, project manager at Flyline. “We had to make the parts for a seated position only.”
While a few small European companies produce technical garments for sit-skiers, these garments often require a custom fit for a finished product. Eddie Bauer engineers decided to start from scratch to create an offline kit for demanding sit-skiers, with strong input from Kennison. However, creating a functional fit has not only improved performance and comfort; Since spinal cord injuries limit sensation below the waist, sit-skiers can develop skin lesions from unnoticed chafing, a problematic issue during cold and wet winter sports.
“If I develop a pressure sore on my butt, I can be out for months,” Kennison told me. “I have to let him fully heal before I can start skiing again.”
This meant the Flyline kit had to conform to the contours of a sit-skier while eliminating seams, pockets, zippers and any excess fabric that might bunch up in the chair. Early prototypes from partner factories in Asia did not incorporate sufficient articulation, so Eddie Bauer turned to his in-house model maker, Leanne Walters, to refine the design. Under normal circumstances, Walters would have met Kennison in person, allowing him to drape fabric and create designs directly on his body. But the pandemic prevented it, so she had to get creative. Walters used her husband as a model to get closer to proper form, draping him in fabric panels as he sat on the couch watching TV. The method brought them close enough; when the prototype was shipped to Kennison for testing, it only took a few refinements to make it perfectly fine.
With the shape and proportions dialed in, the designers turned to other main issues, namely how to keep the wearer warm and dry. Sit skiers tend to be less aerobic than standing skiers and therefore generate less body heat, so Eddie Bauer lined the bibs and jacket with polyester insulation. To keep Kennison dry, he constructed the kit from the brand’s exclusive WeatherEdge Pro, a waterproof-breathable, seam-sealed material used in his flagship outerwear.
More unique details followed. Kennison wears winter hiking boots to ski, so the pant legs taper to the cuff of the boot, with insulation extended to his ankles. The top of the bibs go up almost to his collarbone, to prevent the suspenders from slipping. The front of the jacket is cut well above her waist to avoid bunching. And the sleeves are cut long, like jackets made for alpine climbing, because Kennison needs a greater range of motion to swing his stabilizers.
Eddie Bauer is producing 100 BC Flyline kits this season, 20 of which will go to the High Fives Foundation, a Truckee, Calif.-based nonprofit that supports seriously injured mountain athletes, including many sit-skiers like Kennison. Mertes says they’re not sure how big the market is for this type of clothing, but making the outdoors more inclusive takes precedence over profit. “If we want to equip people for these kinds of activities,” he says, “it’s just the cost of admission.”
The Flyline kit passed the Canadian Rockies powder endurance test with aplomb, keeping Kennison warm and dry in deep conditions – and it kept performing. He wore the bibs and jacket when he made history at the Winter X Games as the first adapted athlete to hit the event’s big leap in Aspen earlier this month, and he’ll wear them at the Winter X Games. a return trip to Eagle Pass in the spring. film with Level 1 Productions. On January 27, the kit won Product of the Year at the Outdoor Retailer Innovation Awards. Whether it’s throwing a massive backflip in the BC backcountry, smashing gates on a slalom course or navigating snow groomers in Winter Park, this outerwear allows him to focus on what he does best: flying over snow-capped mountains. “I’m pretty tough on my gear,” Kennison laughs. “I know if it works for me, it will work for anyone.”