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NSSGA Podcast

Sep 1, 2022

Embracing and Internalizing Training with Steve Trussel

On today’s episode, Libby is joined by Steve Trussell, Executive Director of the Arizona Rock Products Association & The Arizona Mining Association. Early on in his 25+ year career in both hard rock and aggregates, Steve learned that “we do not rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training”. Today, he shares a valuable story regarding the importance of training in ice climbing which has universal applications.

Episode Highlights:

  • Steve was fortunate enough to have an ice climbing instructor named Mark Miller who  has decades of experience in military public safety, search and rescue, and as a climbing guide
  • Mark really focused on safety and systems and taught Steve how to climb with two axes, one ax, and without any tools at all
  • While Steve didn't quite understand why that was important at the time, and didn't know why he would need it, he followed along, and did everything he could to get better at climbing 
  • Mark continually emphasized that ice climbing can be exhilarating but it also has its inherent dangers - the high altitude, the cold, the possibility of pain 
  • About a year ago, Steve was climbing an 800 foot frozen waterfall called Stairway to Heaven, in Eureka Canyon outside of Silverton, Colorado
  • At a daunting stretch of ice near the top of the climb, Steve dropped his ax and started freaking out until he remembered that Mark had prepared him for this
  • This realization calmed him down and he was able to complete the climg to the amazement of his guides
  • There were three things that Steve took away from that day: 
    • First: always pay attention to the training, even if it's something you think is mundane, or you'll never need. 
    • Second: when you're in a situation, just stay calm. 
    • Third: allow what you've learned, or have been trained to do to take over 


Toolbox Talk Discussion Questions:


  • It’s important to be prepared for situations where everything goes according to plan, and for situations where the plan falls apart. How are we as a company doing this?
  • In this story, Steve stayed calm and remembered his training. How can we keep ourselves calm and level-headed if we’re in a tough situation?
  • Does anyone have a story about a time where their training kicked in?


“He taught me how to climb with two axes, one ax, and without any tools at all, because at any given time, any number of things could happen. And I didn't quite understand why that was important at the time, and didn't know why I would need it. But, you know, I followed along.”

“You're climbing on a frozen column of ice, you're using crampons that are attached to your boots and these tools and you're relying on them and your systems to be safe.”

“It's an adrenaline rush, and you just feel so alive, you know. Your legs are burning, your forearms are burning, you're climbing up there, you're just you're really pushing yourself and testing your limits.”

“I'm making it to the top, I'm on the last pitch, and I'm thinking I'm actually going to do this. And just at that moment, I dropped my ax, and so I'm freaking out because I'm thinking I can't finish this climb without an ax.”

“I ended up thinking about ‘What would Mark do in this situation?’ And all of a sudden, I realized, ‘Wait a minute, he's prepared me for this. He's trained me to do this.’ And so I calmed myself down.”

“Whenever I ask ex-military, public safety, or industry professionals, when they were in a tough situation, how they dealt with it, I was never surprised to hear the response: ‘It's because my training kicked in.’”

“It can be terrifying, but your losing your head might mean losing your life.” 

“Training is so important - it's the cornerstone of what we do.”

“When it comes to even small things or big, you know, potentially life threatening situations, having good training, making that the muscle memory, you know, can really make or break a situation.”


National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association website