Type 1 Diabetes: Avalanche Blaster Kim Kircher

When most people look at Crystal Mountain, which stands in the shadows of Washington’s Mt. Rainier, they are in awe of the snow-swept rocks that tower the sky.

Kim Kircher, 45, just sees her workplace.

Kim learned to ski around the same time she learned to walk. She is one of 1,500 avalanche blasters in the United States and is trained to seek out potential avalanches and erase them before the resort’s skiers and snowboarders are caught in the freefalling snow.

While Kircher has found herself in a few avalanches, she approaches each day with a sense of purpose, knowing her years of discipline on the slopes led her to a career of a “lifetime”. Understanding mountains and understanding how to ski in this terrain, is part of my DNA,” says Kircher.

Kim had just graduated from college when she was diagnosed with diabetes. She had considered joining the Peace Corps or Outward Bound before her diagnosis, until her endocrinologist suggested she hold off while she learns how to manage her disease. Kim learned to embrace her diabetes on the slopes as the ski patrol. She also climbed Mt. Rainier, one of the most challenging peaks in the western United States, a year after her diagnosis.

“When I did that, I realized I can do all these things,” she said. “It just takes an extra amount of care.”

Kircher’s diabetes challenge is different than most. She had to learn how to prevent her insulin from freezing in the winter temperatures because she spends the majority of her day outdoors. For her, the tubeless OmniPod insulin pump worked best. “Getting a Pod was the single most important thing I’ve ever done,” says Kircher.

She now manages her diabetes in the same way she manages the mountain. Although she has no idea from day to day what to expect from either, she tries to be as prepared as possible “You don’t allow yourself to get haphazard about your life,” she said. “I look at it as a blessing. Had I not had something to push against, I might not have pushed so far.”