“My name is Shana, I’m from San Jose, and I’m 15. I started skiing when I was 7. My favorite part of skiing is having fun, because you’re going down the mountain super fast.” – Shana, Achieve Tahoe participant

Everyone at Achieve Tahoe knows Shana – over the past 8 years she has taken over 100 lessons with Achieve Tahoe, going from a never-ever to independently skiing with her family. While Shana is known for her skiing, she is also known for her eagerness to get involved and help set up all our programs, her sassy responses when something’s not going her way, and her trademark laugh when having a good time outside.

“One of my first lessons as a new adaptive/ski instructor at Achieve Tahoe was with Shana,” says Risa Matsumura, a former snowsports instructor. “Over the years, I have grown to know Shana and it’s been a blast seeing her blossom into who she is today – a loving, kind, and caring individual. She’s helpful during programs and always brings the fun and joy to the group. My favorite part about Shana is her curiosity to try new things and learn more about anything and everything.”

Shana skis independently while wearing her signature hamburger costume at the 2023 Ability Challenge.

All of our staff have been constantly impressed by Shana’s desire to give back to Achieve Tahoe as she has gotten older. At our Sierra Summer Sports camp on Donner Lake, Shana always helps set-up and serve lunch, and she makes sure that the lemonade is up to par.

“Shana was the best critic of my lemonade at Sierra Summer Sports,” says Laurel Howe, former Achieve Tahoe program coordinator. “She would always let me know if the combo of sweetness and water was off. The lemonade definitely tasted the best on days when Shana was there.”

More importantly (if possible) than helping quality control at lunch, Shana has the ability to help other participants feel more comfortable at our programs. As an Achieve Tahoe veteran, she takes it upon herself to check in on everyone and make sure they are feeling up for the challenges they are taking on.

“During the first season of our climbing program, it was awesome to have Shana join us. She had skied with every instructor there and was just like another member of the team,” says Demi Latham, former program coordinator. “She pushed her limits, worked on building new skills, but had also reached a point in our program where she was comfortable supporting other participants and helped them reach new milestones within their climbing abilities.”

Shana looks up at the camera while rappelling on belay at our climbing program.

For Shana, there are specific milestones in her progress that she remembers. “Learning to ski parallel was a big day,” she says. However, she has made it clear that she doesn’t have a favorite memory with Achieve Tahoe – or a favorite instructor. For all our instructors, it is always a joy to work with Shana. Her big personality lights up every lesson, even when she isn’t finding a task particularly easy.

“I love working with Shana because it’s the perfect example of how we teach so much more than skiing on our lessons. Shana already knows how to ski, she’s been doing it for years,” says Karen Pierce, a winter snowsports instructor. “When she shows up she already knows which ski runs she wants to do and how many laps on each of them. Instead of working on skiing I tend to focus more on building her emotional intelligence. Shana gets frustrated pretty easily and will often say ‘I can’t’, even with things such as putting skis on – something she has done 1,000+ times. So I see it as my job to help her process these frustrations. I’ll remind her that she can do something, help her take a few deep breaths, and then she will be successful!”

Shana, wearing a hot dog costume instead of her traditional hamburger (since her dad forgot it), stands smiling next to Karen, who is wearing a banana costume at the 2024 Ability Challenge. They are both standing in front of a red Snow Cat Machine.

As Shana has grown throughout the years, she has also always participated in the Ability Challenge, raising funds for our programs and then celebrating her fundraising success while wearing her signature hamburger costume.

“Shana and I were paired up at the Ability Challenge at the end of 2019 and I took Shana to ski on Weasel trail, ” says program coordinator Carlyn Moran. “We made a couple laps where she made amazing wedge turns with lots of speed control. She was in a hamburger costume and the image of it still sticks with me and makes me smile. The best part was playing the Oreo face race down at the program center. A giant hamburger eating Oreo cookies off of their face made us both laugh.”

We can’t wait to see Shana at our summer programs this year, and once she turns 16, we hope Shana will consider volunteering with us and sharing the tricks of her independence with future adaptive athletes. Thank you Shana, and we’ll see you soon!

Carlyn and Shana stand smiling next to each other at the 2019 Ability Challenge. Carlyn is dressed as a penguin and Shana dressed as a hamburger.