At just over 14,000 feet, Mount Huron, near Buena Vista, stays snowcapped for much of the year. In early May 2014, the summit was covered in white powder.
And like many mountain tops, the weather – even on a seemingly perfect day – can deteriorate rapidly.
“We are skiing down and we are doing the final ski out back to the camp when the light changed,” said Steve Burns. “The light got super flat and I just couldn’t see anything.
“So I skied off the cliff. Oops,” said Burns with a slight smile.
Burns fell more than 30 feet of the side of Mount Huron.
Kyle Brengel, a friend, was skiing with Burns and saw the accident. Brengel climbed down the drop, attempted to revive Burns, who was unconscious. Brengel sent out an SOS signal, and rapidly climbed back to the nearest parking lot to call for help.
“They sent in a Flight for Life helicopter and the weather was atrocious,” Burns said. “The helicopter pilot couldn’t see anything.”
In an promotional video made by Centura Health, flight paramedic Chris Carr said the helicopter was unable to reach Burns for five or six hours after the time of injury.
Ultimately, Burns was transported to St. Anthony’s Hospital where he underwent emergency brain surgery and remained in a coma for nearly a month.
His wife, who was at the time his fiancée, Keeley Burns, was told that Steve might never fully recover.
“We needed to be prepared that Steve would be living in a nursing home for the rest of his life,” Keeley said.
Doctors encouraged her to apply for Social Security Disability Insurance on Steve’s behalf. That decision lead to a nearly 3-year battle for cash benefits, all while Steve learned how to walk, talk, feed himself, and eventually gain the strength to go back to work.