Mike Stimola
by Rose Egelhoff
The Times-Independent
Aug 31, 2017 | 985 views | 0 0 comments | 84 84 recommendations | email to a friend | print
When Mike Stimola hiked the Appalachian Trail, he met three people who changed his life.

After a grueling four years in engineering school, Stimola decided that he needed “to live life a little bit,” and headed for the Appalachians, he said. While he was hiking, he met two other travelers — recent college graduates like him — and joined them on a four-month road trip.

“So, we traveled for four months around the United States to all these national parks,” Stimola said. “We came to Moab and we spent five days in the backcountry of Arches. We didn’t even spend time in town and I remember … pulling out of Arches on the last day, just thinking, I am going to live at least one year of my life here.”

Stimola saw his chance when another connection he met on the Appalachian Trail called him out of the blue.

“Hey man, I just bought a guide service in Moab. Would you want to come work for me?” his prospective employer asked.

He flew to Utah a week later.

It was Stimola’s first guiding experience but not his last. The guiding service specialized in wilderness therapy for kids, “a huge selling point,” for Stimola in his decision to move to Utah, he said. Stimola had participated in a wilderness therapy program as a child and the chance to give back in the same way appealed to him.

The job did not last long. Three months later, the company went bankrupt, Stimola said. But Stimola had gotten a taste of guiding and of Moab and he was here to stay. He worked a variety of jobs around Moab for the next several years, until December 2015 when he started his own guiding company. After several months of preparation, the company, which he called Moab Canyon Tours, began operating in March 2016.

Stimola grew up loving the outdoors and came to love the hospitality business when he came to Moab, he said.

“Working in restaurants, obviously, is a real easy way to make money out here and I started noticing that I connected really well with people and I sincerely enjoyed it,” he said. “ … I would actually look forward to [work]. I wasn’t even looking forward to it because of the money. I was looking forward to the entertainment — of being an entertainer.”

Coming from an entrepreneurial family, and watching his father start several businesses while he was growing up, Stimola said he thought carefully about the business model. He decided that a shop on Main Street was not worth the cost and conducts business out of his home and online.

“My thought in general with Moab Canyon Tours was the companies in town have been around for about 18 years on average. Our competition. They’re all kind of stuck in their ways ... I just wanted to sit back and rethink [the business model],” Stimola said.

It’s a business he said he takes great pride in.

“We have seen exponential growth. It’s incredible,” he said. “It’s been a good experience, seeing it grow and seeing it change and also seeing the parallel with other companies. I think we offer a caliber higher than anyone else.”

Most of Stimola’s time is spent working on the company, he said.

“I’m in that place in time where ... I still need to give it everything I have.”

When he does have spare time, he climbs, dirt bikes or often, he said, goes canyoneering and explores new places to take his clients.

“People probably think it’s weird that I make my life my business but it’s what I enjoy. It’s my hobby right now … I guess I’m just a workaholic. But I love it.”

Copyright 2013 The Times-Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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