In this podcast, we talk with retired UAC forecaster and Jenny Lake climbing ranger Tom Kimbrough. Tom has spent a lifetime in the mountains. When asked what has kept him alive all this time, his answer, without hesitation: "Luck." We explore ideas about lifetime exposure to risk, what it's like now seeing his son Paul climbing and skiing at such a high level, and what role Buddhism has played in his life as a climber, as a skier, and as a soon-to-be octogenarian. We talk about what has changed over the years in snow science and the role of mentorship in the world of forecasting and other professions and pursuits.
Originally from Chattanooga, Tennessee, Kimbrough learned to ski on a landfill covered with snow outside of Cleveland Ohio. Inspired by Ernest Hemingway, he soon engaged in auto racing. On leave from the Army in 1963, Tom caught his first glimpse of the Teton Range and, one might say, the rest is history. Kimbrough began ski patrolling in the winter of 66/67 and went on to patrol at Alpine Meadows in California and then Alta before taking a job at the Utah Avalanche Center in 1987. Officially, he began climbing and skiing on the government dime in 1973 as a Jenny Lake Climbing Ranger in Grand Teton National Park, where he worked until 2003. Kimbrough continues to ski and climb in the Wasatch Range with his wife Barb Eastman—a famous climber in her own right—and their son Paul, a top-tier extreme skier now living and climbing in the Tetons.