Climbing team’s successful season could lead to bouldering gym
After an eight-week session, Grand County’s first ever climbing team is growing fast and setting sights high.
This fall Chris Michalowski helped organize a new youth climbing team, The Never Summer Senders. The team practiced twice a week at the Fraser Rec Center and Snow Mountain Ranch climbing walls.
After word got out, the two practices started seeing 18 children a week from preschool to high school ages.
“Our goal is to turn the kids into really competent climbers,” Michalowski said.
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This includes learning what it means to be a climber outside, to respect resources and to respect other climbers.
Most members of the team were pretty new to climbing when they started. Michalowski said the practices are meant to be social and have been structured in a way that helps climbers hone a new skill each practice.
While competing is not required to be on the team, four members went to a bouldering competition in Steamboat and another competed in Colorado Springs.
The team of 18 also ended up outgrowing its local facilities, which Michalowski saw as both good and bad.
“We want to take that enthusiasm and expand the program to get all the kids who want to climb climbing,” he said.
Organizers discussed how to deal with the limited capacity and decided they didn’t want to hinder participation using tryouts or a waitlist.
“If the kids are psyched to practice and psyched on climbing, we’re going to do our best to serve them,” Michalowski said.
Organizers decided the best option would be to create a nonprofit bouldering gym for the county, and the Stoke Factory was born. The idea is to create a gym that the climbing team could use but would be open to all locals and visitors in the county.
To Michalowski, a climbing gym would be a great addition. He sees it as a healthy way to pass time and a place to facilitate community connections.
“It’s a cool piece of social infrastructure that our town desperately needs,” Michalowski said.
While the idea is still pretty new, fundraising for the gym is underway. The climbing team is selling tickets for a two-hour film festival to begin raising money.
Tickets are $15 for a showing of the 5Point Adventure Film Festival and all sales will go to support the climbing scheme. The showing will be from 7-9:30 p.m. Jan. 4 at the Headwaters Center in Winter Park.
The climbing team will start back up after the holidays for another eight-week session. Michalowski hopes to plan some family-oriented weekend climbing trips this summer too.
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