Colorado man saved by rescue crews after getting stuck in snow


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A Colorado father is still alive thanks to a backcountry rescue team and a determined daughter.

GILPIN COUNTY, Colo. — A family living near Black Hawk nearly lost someone in Thursday’s snowstorm. But thanks to a backcountry rescue team – and a determined daughter – their dad survived and is already back home recovering.

The snowfall in Gilpin County was so deep that it could be measured by feet, and the county declared a local emergency Thursday.

Bren Wilson and his family live near Black Hawk. On Thursday, he was trying to plow a rural road near a piece of property they own along Missouri Gulch Road above Highway 119 when his tractor got stuck.

“When he started plowing, it was a lot more snow than he could’ve expected. He started that morning, and the snow just didn’t let up,” said his daughter, Kyla Wilson. “He said he got out of the tractor and [the snow] was immediately up to his chest.”

Kyla said her dad is very familiar with mountain terrain, weather conditions, and navigation — he’s often the one to help others in need. When his tractor got stuck, she said he planned to trudge through the snow to the lower part of the road, which he expected was already plowed. He had some winter clothes, but wasn’t equipped with insulated layers or other gear for what turned into several hours digging through snow.

Kyla’s family members started to worry when Bren didn’t return home that night. Away at school in New York, Kyla called her dad and was relieved when he answered his phone.

“I called him and immediately knew something was wrong, there’s that tinge of panic in his voice, which I never really hear,” she said. “He said, ‘I’m in a bad spot.’”

Kyla called local dispatchers for help, and the request eventually reached the Alpine Rescue Team, a group of volunteer backcountry rescuers who work across Gilpin, Clear Creek and Jefferson counties.

“Snow conditions were challenging, to say the least,” said Steve Wilson (no relation), a member of the Alpine Rescue Team (ART) who worked the mission to retrieve Bren. “Roughly 5 feet or so of fresh, unconsolidated powder that made snow machines and skiing and snowshoeing very, very difficult.”

For hours, ART volunteers worked on skis and snow machines to slowly reach Bren’s location. Meanwhile, Kyla stayed on the phone with her dad – coaching him through life-saving techniques in the cold, pushing him to stay resilient, and in the most difficult moments, trying to convince him he wasn’t going to die.

“I was trying to just keep him awake. He just kept saying, ‘I’m so sleepy, so tired,’” she said. “I said, ‘Don’t go to sleep because we both know if you do you’re not going to wake up. I need you, AJ, my brother, needs you. You have so many people who love you, who need you.’”

“That was so hard, to see the strongest man I know going through one of the hardest experiences of his life,” she added.

Finally, in the early morning hours of Friday, Alpine Rescue Team volunteers on skis were the first to reach Bren. 

“They were able to stabilize him, warm him up, get him some warm liquids, food,” Steve said. “After being out in conditions, you’ll be dehydrated, you’ll need some calories for your body to start generating heat. Got him in some warmer jackets, off the snow, until basically the cavalry arrived.”

That night in the snow sent Bren to a Denver hospital with hypothermia. He was released later on Friday to return home and continue his recovery.

But he survived, thanks to his daughter on the phone and rescue crews who fought Mother Nature to reach him.

“It’s scary how quickly people can be taken away from you. It’s just… a miracle he’s with us,” Kyla said. “And I’m going to take every day I can to make the most of every second I get with him.”

Bren’s whole family is extremely grateful for the Alpine Rescue Team. They have plans to donate some money fundraised on their behalf to the all-volunteer team that covers their community.

“We look for the happy endings and we love it when it happens,” Steve said. “It’s great to hear he’s home safe. That’s the reward that we need.”


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Colorado man saved by rescue crews after getting stuck in snow

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