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Former firefighter hits ski slopes for the first time in 8 years after injury

Robert Gentile's first time skiing since his injury. (KRCR)
Robert Gentile's first time skiing since his injury. (KRCR)
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For Robert Gentile, it's been eight years since he stepped out of his comfort zone. Eight years since he took a step towards enjoying his life again after being injured battling a fire that cost him his mobility in his left leg.

A thrill-seeker at heart, Gentile enjoyed the outdoors from hiking to mountain biking to seeking adventure with his family. Gentile worked for Cal Fire in the Shasta Trinity Unit. In September 2012, he and his crew responded to a small fire on a hillside area in Trinity County.

"It was just a small fire in Trinity County. We had injured a couple of firefighters that night just by shale coming down, hitting people," Gentile said.

One of the shale boulders traveling down the hillside came towards him, hitting his quad then ricocheting off his knee leaving permanent damage to his left leg. Gentile now wears a prosthetic brace that goes from my hip to his heel.

"As a fireman injured in the line of duty, I have gone through so much between pain and work comp and lack of care and [the] ability to heal me or fix me. But I figured my life of adventure was over. Everything I have tried has proven to be a fail so as a thrill seeker and outdoors person and family, I gave up. I figured I would never get to see and feel the things I lived as a fireman," Gentile said.

But for the first time since the accident, Gentile traveled up to Mount Shasta Ski Park to ski for the first time.

"I know that my wife has really... was really for this. She wants me to get out more and do more things. I used to be one of those kinds of people that nothing stopped me. I mean hiking, biking, I used to mountain bike a 1000 miles a year and now, I don’t even get on a bike. So it’s just been, you know, a lot of it is just, don’t wanna look different, feel different so this was a big step to take because you feel different," Gentile said.

Due to the damage to his leg, it is impossible to ski upright for him but with the Mount Shasta Ski Park adaptive program, it provided him was a chance to prove to himself that he can still ski and enjoy the outdoors.

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"Being on the top of that mountain, even though it was not too top, it made me feel alive and [felt] like the old me for a moment in time," Gentile said. "It may seem like it’s no big deal to be able to just ski modified but for someone like me, it gave me a new sense that I’m not held back as much as I thought by my disability."

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