Nightly News   |  January 05, 2012

Snowboarder’s remarkable return to the slopes

Kevin Pearce, who once harbored Olympic dreams, survived a devastating brain injury. NBC’s Kevin Tibbles reports.

Share This:

This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> it's been two years since world class snow boarder kevin pearce suffered a terrible head injury during a practice session on the half pipe almost ending his dreams for the sport, almost ending his life. nbc's kevin tibbles has been keeping track of kevin pearce every day since and today he reports on a happy milestone.

>> reporter: two years ago kevin pearce was flying high .

>> whoa, kevin !

>> reporter: a favorite on the snowboard circuit, poised for the podium at the vancouver olympics . but then he fell to earth. pearce missed a new difficult maneuver called the double cork while training on the half pipe in park city , utah, slamming his head into the icy wall with such force it cracked his helmet. he was left near death with severe brain trauma.

>> i guess from what i hear i never will remember any of what happened that day. you know, that's all right with me.

>> reporter: pearce suffered memory loss and impaired vision . he would have to learn to walk again. his father, renowned glass blower simon pearce and the rest of this tight knit vermont family supported kevin every step of the way.

>> what he's done in the last two years, i can't imagine anyone who's been part of it who wouldn't be inspired by it.

>> reporter: kevin 's brothers were a constant source of strength including his brother david with down's syndrome who was his workout partner. there is one more challenge facing him. with his family at his side pearce straps on the board high in the mountains of vermont and he rips it up.

>> just like riding a bike for you? getting back on?

>> it is, man. it's mellow. it's good how easy it is.

>> reporter: you didn't forget?

>> no. i still know how to do it.

>> reporter: he says competing is out of the question -- just too dangerous. being on the mountain again means the world.

>> it just feels so good after so much hard work. just everything i put in to be able to get back up there and start snowboarding again.

>> reporter: even after a two-year convalescence, keeping up with him proves difficult. slow down!

>> i had no idea we would be here today, snowboarding together today. i couldn't be more proud of him or happy over how it's turned out.

>> reporter: but for the boy who loves to fly it's the love of family that has helped guide him back home.

>> high five me, right there. yeah, dude!

>> reporter: kevin tibbles, nbc news, vermont .