Achieve Tahoe celebrates 50 years changing lives through passion for the outdoors | SierraSun.com

Achieve Tahoe celebrates 50 years changing lives through passion for the outdoors

What began in 1967 as programming for amputees to enjoy adventures in snow sports has since grown into an internationally recognized foundation that has impacted hundreds of thousands of lives.

Achieve Tahoe is an inclusive program that accommodates people with all physical, sensory and cognitive disabilities.

The nonprofit's instructors begin with standard techniques used in each respective sport and then create adaptive lesson plans based on each individual's needs.

"We don't turn anyone away for any disability," said Haakon Lang-Ree, Achieve Tahoe's executive director. "Our techniques and equipment allow us to turn our focus to each person's situation, and our experience and expertise creates a successful sport activity for them."

The heart and soul of Achieve Tahoe — which until late 2015 was known as Disabled Sports USA Far West — is the phenomenal staff made up of just a handful of year-round employees, and about 170 volunteer instructors.

"Most of what we all have in common is the will to be outdoors, feeling the wind in your face and building self esteem," Lang-Ree said.

The immeasurable support of instructors and staff — paired with sponsorships from Anthem Blue Cross, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, as well as Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, along with support from several Tahoe-area ski resorts — has helped the program grow and make invaluable opportunity available to adaptive sport participants.

The nonprofit's over-arching goal? To motivate and support one another.

"They can do it," Lang-Ree said. "We know they can do, it and we help them do it."

Achieve Tahoe now works with about 800 athletes each year in the nonprofit's flagship ski and snowboard program, with about half traveling from the Bay Area and the other half coming from along the Interstate 80 corridor as well as from states across the country.

"The way I look at it," Lang-Ree said, "(helping around 800 people a year) is just a drop in the bucket. We'd love to help tens of thousands of people in a single year."

"We're trying to give opportunities to people with disabilities that so many of us take for granted," he added. "It's about giving back. We want people with disabilities to be able to plan these winter or summer vacations to ski, snowboard, kayak, whatever they want to do."

Annual Ability Challenge set for April 1

Achieve Tahoe welcomes the entire community to spread the word about the nonprofit and participate in fundraising all season long, culminating in the Ability Challenge, a fun, daytime celebration at Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows set for April 1, 2017.

The event includes a lift ticket (if needed), a goodie bag and a lunch voucher. Hang around afterward for the Après Ski Party with food, drink and a generous raffle.

Achieve Tahoe also recently held its annual military sports camp and "Ability Bash" fundraising event, the latter of which took place Jan. 28 at the Squaw Valley Conference Center.

According to a news release from Squaw Valley, 17 injured veterans attended the camp, which consisted of specialized private instruction in skiing, snowboarding and snowmobiling for free.

Learn more

Achieve Tahoe provides winter and summer sports instruction at all ability levels for adults and children with disabilities. For information on volunteering and ways to support Achieve Tahoe, visit http://www.achievetahoe.org.