The Roam Elevate system in use

Some skiers manage to schuss downhill for decades, their legs staying healthy. Others give up the sport or curtail their ski days because of painful, aging joints or nagging injuries. The Roam Elevate exoskeleton, an innovative device that offloads 30 percent of total body weight from the legs, aims to help those lapsed skiers.

A pair of strap-on leg braces—the exoskeleton—holds two air-filled bladders that are powered via a small backpack holding software, sensors, and batteries. A control on the shoulder strap adds or subtracts air pressure in the bladders for more or less leg support, while three settings adjust the rate of airflow to suit terrain type and turn size.

Though I don’t have knee problems (fingers crossed), I tested the device in December to understand how it works. I was always aware of wearing the system—the air pumps emit a constant low-grade buzz when activated—but after a few runs felt surprisingly unencumbered. I skied everything from bumps on Wildcat (I felt nimbler) and groomed cruisers to tight trees in Hanging Valley Glades and steeps in Rock Island. The main takeaway: less weight on my quads, subtle but noticeable.

Snowmass is one of 10 US ski areas where you can demo the exoskeleton. Next year it will be for sale. Put down a $100 deposit now to get 30 percent off the purchase price—$5,000—and delivery of your own Roam Elevate next fall.

As for skiing technique, that’s still all on you. 

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