Klaus Gump, a native of Austria, has always been an avid skier. And living in Big Sky, MT, he skis close to 100 days a year. However, several meniscus injuries since the age of 11 due to soccer nearly brought his love of skiing to an early halt.
"[The injuries] were never taken care of because they required major surgery at that time," Gump explained. "Later on in life I had lots of problems with arthritis, and I had knee surgery for clean up."
During a ski trip with his son to Beaver Creek, CO, in 1994, Gump found himself unable to ski after a couple of hours because of the pain. He remembered the name of a man in Vail, CO, who had invented an adaptive device for skiers with his type of injuries. Gump made a phone call to Walter Dandy.
"He said, 'Klaus, come over; this is the best thing you can get in your condition,' " Gump recalled. And Dandy was right.
"I am 65 now, and can ski from the morning to evening pain free," Gump said.
Gump's knee is void of any cartilage; with bone against bone, it would be extremely painful to do any exercise, let alone ski.
Dandy's Constant-force Articulated Dynamic Struts, better know as CADS, work like shock absorbers. They are permanently mounted to ski boots. The skiers also wears a best on his or her ski suit as a harness. A pulley is attached to allow for a pulling action.
Gump, a retired engineer, explained that shock absorbers work by combining a lifting force and a downward force. "It is the lifting force in this device that prevents knee and lower back strain," he said. "The downward force, when you pres down, generates on the skis increased edging power, and it increases the contact of the ski on the snow." The result is better control for the skiers and, most important, decreased knee strain.
Dandy described himself as a "typical working guy in New York" who jogged daily and occasionally played squash at the time he came up with the idea for CADS. It was during a ski trip of his own. The vacation proved to be more strenuous than he had expected.
"After three full days of skiing, I felt that I didn't have anything left," he told ADVANCE by cell phone last month, from atop a mountain in Vail as skiers swooshed past. "This sport [is] much more like a callisthenic or weight exercise than any other sport."
It was during a chair lift ride up the mountain that Dandy began to realize that skiing meant constant use of the extensor muscles. "It's not like football or anything else where you alternate between the extensors and contractors," he said.
That's when it hit him. "It's like you're doing pushups all day long—if you had a bedspring between [you] and the rug, you could do [many] more push-ups," he explained. "What I was beginning to see in the course of that chair lift ride was the opportunity to replicate that extensor function with a spring."
Dandy spent two full years making that happen. "There was no precedent for any element of the device, and everything had to be developed from scratch," he said. The device hit the market in February 1991. He and his wife now make their home and their living in Vail, selling the device and demonstrating how to use it.