Achieve Tahoe celebrates Foam Fest fundraiser

Sara Jackson / Special to the Sun
Achieve Tahoe participant enjoying summer kayaking activity.
Provided / Achieve Tahoe

TRUCKEE, Calif. — Millions visit Lake Tahoe each year to take advantage of its many recreational activities such as skiing, hiking, biking, and water skiing. But for many with disabilities, these types of activities can be challenging.

In 1967, Jim Winthers, a World War II veteran of the 10th Mountain Division and Director of Soda Springs Ski School, founded Achieve Tahoe. Along with a group of Vietnam veterans with disabilities, they taught themselves how to ski and found ways to adapt equipment to fit their needs and abilities.  

Winthers believed that Lake Tahoe communities could benefit from a program that would assist more people with disabilities. Today, Achieve Tahoe provides year-round outdoor recreation activities for people with cognitive, sensory, and physical disabilities. The organization’s mission is to provide affordable, inclusive, physical, and recreational activities that build health, confidence, and independence.

Achieve Tahoe established seven core values which are inclusion, respect, community, quality, professionalism, passion, and fun, to define how they conduct business, serve those that participate in their programs, and guide staff, volunteers, and board directors. The organization receives roughly 80-100 new volunteers each year between winter and summer, and they currently have 218 active volunteers. 

Achieve Tahoe’s new equestrian program offered in the summer months.
Provided / Achieve Tahoe

“We see a variety of things as far as participants,” said Guest Services Director Marina Gardiner. “We see a lot of participants that start with us as kids and stay with us into their adolescent years and adulthood. Those are typically participants with cognitive disabilities or a permanent disability that requires a bi-ski, which needs a certain amount of assistance. We also see participants who come to us after a new injury, like a spinal cord injury or a head injury. A certain number of those participants will work with us for awhile, and then they’ll end up skiing on their own without us. The same thing will also happen sometimes with the kids that we see that come to us, they come to an age where they’re able to ski on their own or with their family, and then we stop seeing them as often.”

In 1998, Gardiner suffered a spinal cord injury, and learned to ski with Achieve Tahoe between 2000-2005. She then came back to Achieve Tahoe as an employee in 2011. As a participant turned volunteer for the organization, Gardiner said that while this doesn’t happen often, it is powerful when the staff does see a previous participant become further involved at the organization years later.

Achieve Tahoe’s snow sports program is their flagship program, and is the organization’s most popular, which runs from December through March each year. According to Gardiner, they have come to a point where their demand has far exceeded their supply, however they are optimistic that their recreation programs will continue to grow with additional volunteers and staffing.

Achieve Tahoe’s winter skiing program.
Provided / Achieve Tahoe

“Achieve Tahoe has more people wanting lessons than we are able to accommodate, which is why we are working to expand what we do as well expand their number of volunteers and instructors,” Gardiner said. “We are currently hiring paid instructors and recruiting as many volunteers as we can to continue to grow.”

Achieve Tahoe’s summer activities include horseback riding, hiking, archery, sailing, and water skiing.  

“We have made a pretty big effort to increase our summer programming over the last three to four years, and this year we did more summer programs then we have in the past,” Gardiner said. “In the summer our most popular programs currently are the ones that have been offered for quite awhile. Our Sierra Summer Sports program, which is a day at Donner Lake, where we go tubing, jet skiing, kayaking, and paddle boarding is really popular among our participants, as well as our water skiing program.”

Achieve Tahoe new sailing program.
Provided / Achieve Tahoe

Along with Achieve Tahoe’s long-time summer activities, this past summer, the organization ramped up new programs to offer to their guests during the warmer months.

“We definitely saw more of a demand for our newer programs this year than we have before,” Gardiner said. “Our sailing program was completely full all season. Our equestrian program is getting more and more popular. Our hiking, climbing, and archery programs all saw big increases this year.”

Because Achieve Tahoe was founded by veterans, the program has strong ties to and is proud to serve veterans and active duty service members with permanent disabilities at a discounted rate of 50% off posted activity fees.

While the organization is proactively accepting new volunteers, there are specific qualifications, and those qualifications vary depending on the program of interest. Specifically for their snow sports program, it is required for volunteers to be classified as an intermediate skier.

“[Achieve Tahoe] staff will teach our volunteers the details on how to interact with people with disabilities,” Gardiner said. “It’s a commitment. Snow sports instructors are asked to commit to a minimum of 10 days over the snow sports season. Two of those days would be training days, and the other days will be days volunteering either as a lead or an assistant instructor. Our goal is to have everybody be a lead instructor.”

As a nonprofit in North Lake Tahoe, Achieve Tahoe keeps their pricing for their programs low so it is accessible for all to enjoy. According to Gardiner, the money that they bring in from program fees only covers 20% of the operating cost, and the other 80% is made up by relying on annual fundraising events, donations from other businesses and individuals, and grants.

Achieve Tahoe’s upcoming Foam Fest fundraiser has been going strong for several decades. The fundraiser runs from Oct. 1 – 31, and all proceeds go towards supporting Achieve Tahoe’s outdoor recreation programs “to build health, confidence, and independence in people with disabilities,” according to the fundraiser’s website. Each ticket is $49 and with the buy-in, individuals will receive a Foam Fest glass and one beer at each of the five participating breweries.

Achieve Tahoe’s water skiing summer program.
Provided / Achieve Tahoe

To pickup your souvenir glass and punch card, you will need to present your ticket, along with a valid photo ID, at any of the five participating North Lake Tahoe breweries. The breweries participating in this year’s Foam Fest are Fifty Fifty Brewing Company, Truckee Brewing Company, Alibi Ale Works, Donner Creek Brewing, and The Good Wolf.

For more information on Achieve Tahoe and to get information on becoming a volunteer, a participant, or to donate, visit their website  

For more information, call 530-581-4161 x 11 or email

Sara Jackson is a freelance writer for the Sierra Sun and Tahoe Daily Tribune.

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