Mike Kimmel works as the Department Head for English Language at the Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy, a public high school that works exclusively with competitive skiers and snowboarders (ranging from Alpine skiing, freeride, all forms of snowboarding competition, and nordic). He is also a climbing coach and primary routesetter for the Vail Athletic Club, and a guide for Adventure Travel Guides. He’s worked as a setter and coach for 10+ years, and has sent many young climbers to USA Nationals, and a few kids to Continental Championships.
Where are you based?
Currently based outside of Vail, Colorado, working for the Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy and the Vail Athletic Club.
What are your favorite outdoor sports?
My favorite outdoor sport is, without a doubt, rock climbing – mostly of the boulder, sport, and competition variety. That said, I also do enjoy traditional climbing, and I will definitely skip a climbing session for a powder day mid-winter.
What’s your career now and what inspired you to go after it?
My main career is as a high school English teacher at Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy, and then I also coach a large competition climbing team out of the Vail Athletic Club, and work as their head routesetter. Coaching rock climbing and routesetting paid my rent in college, and led me to realize I worked really well with kids. Shifting to academic teaching was a natural transition, and I chose a school where the kids all have the same dedication to playing outside that I do. I’m also experienced and skilled enough as a routesetter and coach that I feel I can do that job anywhere I live.
Tell us about one of your best days on the job:
Best days as a coach? This past year, watching one of my climbers absolutely crush his way into ABS Nationals, after winning in both the region and divisional levels. We have a relatively small gym compared to most of Colorado, and to help out kids advance our crew has to be very creative about routesetting, and we think a lot about the types of moves and holds that get featured in major competitions.
What’s the best thing about working in the Outdoor Industry?
The community, honestly. Climbing has been one of the driving forces in my life, and I feel has always given me a place to existentially call home throughout life. Whenever I travel somewhere new, it feels so easy to become linked within the community of climbers and be given opportunities to explore the world. I think this type of camaraderie can be found in any group that enjoys a sport that seeks a natural line (climbing, kayaking, surfing, and skiing and come to mind). I think people who play these outdoor sports gain a different kind of appreciation for the landscape, and we are pretty blessed for it.
What’s one of your bucket list items?
Bucket list item – like one thing I would like to really have before I die? Hmmm . . .a 100-meter rope, when I one day find that 200 meter route that just MUST be done in a single shot.
What pieces of gear do you love right now and would recommend to others?
Right now, the gear I would really recommend includes:
Petzl Aquila – superlight, compressible harness. Worked great as my only harness on an international trip.
Big Agnes Tensleep Station 6 – For non-backpacking camping, this is like having a studio apartment in the woods. It’s a six-person tent that I use for two people and a dog, and it is utterly amazing.
Evolv Nexxo – I think this is possibly the most aggressively down-turned shoe on the market, without being extremely soft – making it great for both sensitive bouldering moves and extended route climbing.
Trango Crag Pack – My previous climbing pack lasted me about seven years, and I still don’t have the heart to toss it. I replaced it with this haul-bag style pack from Trango and I’m psyched. Deep, carries a lot of weight, decently waterproof, with a shoe sacklet on the outside. Simultaneously one of the nicest and most affordable climbing packs.
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