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They Wanted an Outdoor Wedding. They Got a Search-And-Rescue Operation.

Josiah and Amanda Powell planned an intimate, friends-and-family wedding in the Colorado backcountry. Then 60 surprise guests showed up.

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When Josiah and Amanda Powell planned a snowmobile-in wedding in one of their favorite Colorado backcountry ski spots, they expected an intimate, friends-and-family affair that would be as adventurous as they were. 

What they didn’t expect: 60 extra guests from the local search-and-rescue team.

Raised in Minnesota, the Powells started dating after they moved to Colorado four years ago and quickly bonded over a shared love of the mountains. They started backcountry skiing about a year and a half later, motivated in part by a desire to dodge resorts’ long lift lines. The couple had originally planned a large wedding in Minneapolis for December 2020, but after Covid forced them to cancel, they decided to move their nuptials to somewhere more wild.

“We backcountry ski, we mountain bike, we dirt bike,” Josiah said. “So we wanted to have our wedding reflect our personalities and our love for the backcountry.”

The couple picked a spot up the Deer Creek Trail near Montezuma, a wide basin backdropped by steep chutes holding prime springtime ski descents. The guests, about 18 people consisting of the wedding party, a small group of family members, and a handful of friends from the couple’s snowmobiling group, rode up to the site on snowmobiles and in a pair of rented off-road vehicles with treads. When they were all assembled, the bride and groom surprised the guests by skiing down to their wedding from the top of one of the nearby mountains.

It was after the ceremony, as the guests were on their way back to the trailhead, that the trouble started. One of the off-road vehicles—a six-person Polaris Ranger with treads—had just dropped off a group of guests and was on its way back to pick up more when it became stuck in a drift of warming snow. In the process of trying to extricate it, two more machines became stuck. While the group had enough working snowmobiles to evacuate everyone, conditions were mild—sunny and windless—so they started to dig themselves out.

The Powells won’t say which of their parents decided to call 911. But when the pair got back to the trailhead after freeing the stuck vehicles and posing for a few more pictures with their photographer, one of their friends approached them to let them know that Summit County Rescue Group, the local SAR team, had arrived ready to save some lives.

“We showed up to the parking lot and the sheriff was there, along with a couple search-and-rescue vehicles with snowmobiles,” Josiah says “Luckily, we had a couple friends who made it back right when they did and let them know what was going on.” According to a Facebook post from the team, about 60 rescuers had responded to the call.

The rescuers were good-natured about the callout, posing for photos with the bride and groom. When someone joked that the unexpected guests should have brought gifts, one of the team members handed the couple a $5 bill

Even though they didn’t need help in the end, the Powells say they’re grateful for the quick response—and their family and friends are putting together a donation for the team to thank them for coming to their wedding.

“We know how much money, how much resources it takes to get a group of volunteer people into a trailhead like that,” says Amanda. “So we’re just really appreciative.”

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