Wounded Veterans Healed on the Hill

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OLYMPIC VALLEY, CA - This week, wounded warriors are receiving star treatment at Sierra resorts across the region.

Tahoe-based Disabled Sports USA is honoring these veterans with a week of ski lessons, but the skills they are learning go beyond the hill.

When you see him on the mountain, you would never think Reno resident Robert Evans had anything holding him back.

"When I am interested in something I tend to learn it very fast," said Evans.

Wednesday was only his 7th or 8th time snowboarding. But he is doing surprisingly well, all things considered.

"In my first deployment in 2005 I got my back broken by an IED, my second deployment in 2007, I lost my hand to another IED," said Evans.

Evans is one of more than a dozen wounded veterans taking to the hill this week to learn some new skills.

"This group in particular tends to be really hard-working and focused," said Haakon Lang-Ree, Executive Director.

The camp is put on by Disabled Sports USA, which helps people with disabilities every day, but these vets are just a little more special.

"We really look at this as a chance to give back. Even though we serve a lot of people with disabilities, this is a really special group for us," said Lang-Ree.

For the vets, it's a chance to feel normal again. Focus is placed on their abilities instead of their disabilities.

"These people are doing things that maybe they did not think they could do before and so at the end of the day everybody is psyched and high-fiving and it feels really good," said Luka Starmer, an adaptive snowboarding instructor.

The skills learned this week go so much further than the ski hill. This event has a second purpose of reintegrating soldiers back into society.

"It's really nice to be able to spend time with that instructor and kinda bridge the gap between the military and civilian life and it really does translate off the mountain," said Evans.

At the same time, it's helping the civilians better understand the veterans.

Alpine Meadows, Squaw Valley and Northstar are all hosting the veterans this week. This program is completely free to participants, thanks to generous donors.