LAKE PLACID - As a child growing up in Lake Placid, Jeff Erenstone developed a love of outdoor sports, including skiing, rock climbing and paddling. Now as leader in the adaptive sports world, Erenstone is helping others foster an appreciation for these adventurous activities.
Erenstone is the owner and primary clinician at Mountain Orthotic and Prosthetic Services, which has offices in Lake Placid and Plattsburgh. The business offers services such as making prosthetics for patients who have lost limbs through illness or injuries.
But slowly over the years, Erenstone has been more involved in adaptive sports. The 37-year-old Lake Placid resident said he averages about five to 10 hours per week working on this aspect of his business. He does so not because it brings in a lot of money, but because he has a strong passion for adaptive sports.
Jeff Erenstone, of Mountain Orthotic and Prosthetic Services in Lake Placid, displays a prosthetic limb in his office. (Photo — Mike Lynch)
In addition to working with individual athletes, Erenstone has led adaptive camps for nordic skiing events in recent years during the Empire State Winter Games in Lake Placid. And he's worked with Adirondack Adaptive Adventures to put on a summer cycling camp and Camp No Limits, a camp for Children with Limb Loss, based in Maine.
Erenstone has also developed a special orthotic foot for people to use for rock climbing and specialized cycling equipment. Being located in Lake Placid has played a key role in this aspect of his business.
"Honestly, that's part of coming here because here we can (do outdoor activities)," Erenstone said. "When we do the rowing legs, we just went to Mirror Lake with them. When we did the bike, we went to River Road. It's right there. The (Olympic Training Center) is right there, so they come. So being able to do this because of (Lake Placid's) sports emphasis has made it easy and possible. If I was in the middle of New York City, this would be a lot harder.
"That's the thing about developing something like this. You can't just do it in the office. You have to build something, and then you have to go out and use it. Then it won't work, and you have to do it again. Then you go outside, and it works. To try to do these things by going around and trying to think about it is just not going to happen."
Most recently, Erenstone's focus has been on the adaptive sports of skeleton and bobsled. In late March, he attended a conference hosted by the Parasport Committee of the International Bobsled and Skeleton Federation (FIBT) in Latvia. Erenstone was invited as a special advisor and is helping the organization work toward creating a World Cup circuit for the sliding sports. Next year, he said the FIBT committee hopes to host its first World Cup race series for adaptive bobsled, and Erenstone is playing a key role in developing the equipment. The FIBT hopes to host World Cups in Park City, Utah; Innsbrook, Austria; Calgary, Canada; and St. Moritz, Switzerland. The goal is to have bobsled in an upcoming Paralympics.
"This was the first conference to say we have to define what the first official competition will be like, who can do what, what's safe, what's not safe," Erenstone said. "So it took two days of meetings to figure all of that out. I got invited as a special advisor. We figured out a lot of stuff. More of less, we defined the sport in some ways."
One of Erenstone's primary roles is to develop a model for custom-made seats that athletes can use in a universal bobsled design. The seats would be removable and custom made for each competitor to suit their needs.
"If someone goes from North America to Europe, they're probably not going to bring their bobsled but just use the bobsled there," Erenstone said. "The FIBT is actually buying a fleet of sleds, and they're going to try to put them in tracks across the world."
If Erenstone's equipment is used in these international competitions and future Paralympics, it wouldn't be the first time his designs made it to a high-level event.
In February, a nordic sit ski he designed was used in the Sochi Paralympics Games by U.S. parathlete Dan Cnossen, who took sixth place in a cross country-ski race.
"This is the exciting side to do the adaptive sport sport side," Erenstone said. "To work with guys like ... Dan Cnossen, a special forces Marine who lost his legs in Afghanistan. (He) is such a strong person."