Passion for outdoors boosts CMC
Colorado Mountain College’s outdoor program has grown considerably in 25 years under Bruce Kime, but he’s not the type to take credit for all of it.
“It has a long, rich history,” he said. “I didn’t start it. There were others before me.”
There was Jack Snobble, one of the first Outward Bound instructors in country, and Paul Petzoldt, founder of the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS).
When Kime, a self-identified NOLS disciple, became temporary professor of outdoor studies at the Spring Valley Campus in 1990, the school already had a ropes course and classes in everything from rock climbing to telemarking.
Kime, 64, retired at the end of the spring semester and is handing over the reigns to 27-year-old local Johann Aberger.
“It’s his turn to make a mark on the program,” Kime said.
Although he’s looking forward to catching up on projects at home and doing more outdoor stuff on his own terms, he plans to stay involved with the school.
“This has been a great place for me. I’ve been very fortunate to be part of the program, and hopefully I’ve carried it forward with integrity,” he said. “The only thing I really want for students is for them to follow their passions and to contribute to whatever they’re doing.”
Kime had a passion for the outdoors from an early age. He grew up in south-central Illinois, farming with his grandfather and participating in Boy Scouts. He discovered rock climbing at college in Oklahoma, and ended up working at a mountaineering store and guide in Vail. There, he learned to raft, and spent some time as a river guide before going to work for Roaring Fork School District, and finally with CMC.
“My heart was with the outdoors and teaching with the outdoors,” he said. “There was nothing permanent about the offer, so I just sort of took a step into the unknown and went. Here are we 25 years later.”
His love of the river prompted him to design the school’s first rafting class, which started in 1993.
“I’m real proud of that one,” he said.
Now, the school takes out numerous rafting and kayaking permits each year, and also holds a research permit with White River National Forest as well as permits with the Bureau of Land Management and Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
The curriculum is a healthy mix of purely outdoor technical classes as well as more academic courses.
“If you say outdoor education to most people, they may not fully understand what all is under this umbrella,” Kime said. “There’s geology, biology, chemistry, math …”
The program ties in well with the new Bachelor’s of Sustainability, and stacks up decently with curriculums nationwide.
“I think our students can go toe to toe with any other students coming out of any other two-year program in the United States,” Kime said.
He believes even students who don’t go on to work outdoors benefit from the experience.
“I find the more outdoor skill sets you have out here the more employable you are,” Kime said. “You learn leadership, professionalism, customer service, risk management, and you also learn skill sets so you can go back to those places with good judgment and minimum impact.”
Other students can also get a taste of the outdoors by taking their wellness credit in rock climbing instead of yoga or weightlifting, and many non-students take the opportunity to audit a class or two.
“We’ve tried to support our traditional students as well as providing opportunities for the community,” Kime said. “Our job as educators is to plant seeds and turn on lights and provide the opportunities for people to have experiences we hope are meaningful,” he said.
“It’s the grandeur of creation, and there’s an introspective piece. If you’re standing on an alpine slope and watching a herd of 50 elk 200 yards away or an eagle pass overhead, that’s a wilderness experience. I never take those things for granted.”
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Ivan Jackson joined LIFT-UP as its new executive director in August.