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The Toronto Sun CareerConnection


Making molehills out of mountains

By Linda White
Special to The Toronto Sun

For an accomplished mountaineer who has led expeditions throughout North and South America and scaled the Himalayas, teaching others how to climb their own mountains was a natural transition.

"Climbing taught me a lot about myself, leadership and teamwork," says Scott Kress, founder and president of Summit Training & Development (
Corporate trainer Scott Kress, above at the top of Aconcagua mountain in Argentina, drew from his mountain climbing experiences to form Summit Training and Development, which helps companies scale their own mountains through team-building exercises.

"People go through the same challenges in the business environment. Their mountains aren't made of rock and snow, but they are mountains nonetheless. I draw from my experiences to teach them how to reach their summits."

The 34-year-old Oakville resident began climbing while attending Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, where he completed a double degree in outdoor recreation and a bachelor of science.

While in university, Kress worked as a rock climbing and wilderness instructor with Outward Bound, a company that offers adventure education and corporate development programs. Hes continued working with Outward Bound on a contract basis following graduation.

Kress then took corporate training courses to become a professional development facilitator, a position that took him to Texas, New Mexico and Mexico.

"It all evolved from the climbing. It wasn't until I found my passion for climbing that my leadership and motivational skills came out. It gave me the confidence to do what I'm doing."

Kress further developed his skills as a corporate trainer. He worked with Larry Wilson in the U.S., one of the founders of corporate experiential training, which blends theory and active participation.

While working with Outward Bound, Kress formed Planet Adventure. The recreational service company was based in Collingwood, Ont. and attracted primarily corporate clients -- many of whom expressed interest in corporate training programs.

That led to the creation of Summit Training & Development in 1997. Its goals include helping companies build high performance teams by increasing skills in problem solving, decision-making, risk taking, conflict resolution, leadership and change management.
Scott Kress mountain climbing in Ecuador.

Training programs include "low initiatives," activities that take place at ground level. Activities such as construction of a tower or boat, for example, are designed to develop communication skills.

"High ropes" initiatives take place off the ground and involve climbing telephone poles or rope courses built in the trees. "High ropes are very inspirational and exhilarating challenges. People really feel what it's like to be part of a high performance team."

He admits many are skeptical of their ability to reach the top.

"When they pull out their inner courage and determination and work as a team, they can meet their goal," Kress says. "They take that back to their work environment...It can be used as a benchmark to show that the impossible is possible."

The Oakville-based company also incorporates climbing, canoeing, rafting, hiking and sailing into training sessions. Sessions are offered primarily in Southern Ontario, but can be offered across North America.

A growing list of clients include Bell Canada, Coca-Cola, Dale Carnegie, Fidelity Investments, Labatt and many more.

"One of the reasons why I love to do this is to be part of personal changes in someone's life. People remember these training sessions forever."

(Linda White ( is a freelance writer based in Brooklin, Ont.)

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