BIG SKY — Big Sky is known for its world-class slopes, but its trails offer more than just beautiful views and great snow. They can also provide an escape from reality.
“It’s a blessing that there are people out here that do these kinds of things to help us come back and be normal people," said Brian Michael.
Michael is a veteran who served 22 years in the U.S. Army. In 2009, his life flashed before his eyes after his Humvee drove over an I.E.D., taking the lives of everyone on board except for his.
“I never should have come home from the injuries I had," Michael added.
But after 27 surgeries, he was finally able to walk out of the hospital, and, thanks to Big Sky Eagle Mount, he was able to get back on skis.
“I never thought I’d be on skis again," Michael explained. "The way they’ve worked with me and got me to be more independent to where I don’t even have to rely on outriggers where I can do it all myself, I’ll never be able to thank them for that.”
Eagle Mount is a non-profit founded in Bozeman that provides adaptive recreational opportunities with a mission focused on people’s abilities, while gently supporting their disabilities.
“It’s an amazing thing to be able to be around people that have been through so much and see how positive they are about life and everything that they can do and want to still go ahead and do with everything they’ve been through already," said Eagle Mount instructor Steve Garvine.
It’s a program that U.S. Army vet Russell Nelson is thankful for after losing his eyesight in combat.
“The amount of patience that they show, especially for someone in my particular situation, there’s no rushing, there’s no getting frustrated with the amount of time it’s taken for me to pick up the sport," Nelson said.
Eagle Mount provides a variety of different programs for people of all ages and disabilities across Montana, but the impact remains the same.
“It takes a lot of weight off your shoulders to be honest, because if you get stuck in that rut where you’re just sitting inside, it will eat you up alive," added Nelson.
“It really is a freeing experience to sort of get me off the couch a little bit and get me out of this wonderful environment here in Big Sky and get out there on the slopes," said U.S. Army veteran Keith Williams.