Disabled veterans from all over the country are in Tahoe this week for the 10th annual Anthem Winter Ski Festival.  With the help of Achieve Tahoe, they're taking on new challenges on the slopes and in life.   

"This is the coolest thing ever, what they do with our vets," said skier Chris Farris, a USMC veteran.

Every year Achieve Tahoe gives wounded veterans a chance to do something they never thought possible.

"I'm 60 years old and I've never done anything like this," Farris said.  "They they didn't ski in my neighborhood, so this is good stuff."

The Anthem Winter Ski Festival is an all-expense paid trip to Tahoe.  Achieve Tahoe provides all the adaptive gear and instruction - most from experts that donate their time.

"We have about 200 instructors and only a dozen or so are actually paid employees," said Achieve Tahoe Executive Director Haakon Lang-Ree.  
"Flights, lodging and skiing are all paid for the veterans through our sponsors - Anthem Blue Cross, Disabled Sports USA and Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows." 

"The instructors here are fantastic,"  Farris said.  "They're always finding a new way to teach something in layman's terms.  My instructor makes me feel like I know what I'm doing -  thanks, Bob."

The veterans come a long way in just a few days.

"He's doing awesome, he's very coachable and it's a pleasure to be with him," said Farris' instructor, Bob.  "We got to know each other very well and we're looking forward to tomorrow at Squaw."

But the learning doesn't stop when the lifts stop spinning.

"The message is that if you can do this, you can do anything," said Disabled Sports USA Executive Director Glenn Merry.  "You notice the change in their persona, in their confidence level, just in their approach to life and that's what's the most rewarding part."

Disabled Sports USA, a sponsor of the program, started in Tahoe 51 years ago.

"It was the 10th Mountain Division alumni coming back and getting people on the snow that were injured or wounded," Merry said.  "It was a way to get them back into life and integrated back into some of the things they love -  sports being that equalizer in society."

It's a way to give back to those that gave so much.

"We all know this is a population of Americans that are well-deserving and it's great to give back a little bit," Lang-Ree said.  "Seeing the successes is really inspiring and almost everyone gets a lot better in a short amount of time.  We see so many people trying hard and really making a difference from all sides."

And for some, it's a chance to get back in boots every winter.

"I've been back twice," Farris said.  "So it stared a whole activity that I never thought I'd do, and they say I look pretty good doing it too."

Achieve Tahoe: https://www.achievetahoe.org/