Alpine Search and Rescue—It’s Not Baywatch on Skis



This month, I caught up with Tom Wood, Field Director of the Alpine Rescue Team in Evergreen, Colorado and 19-year veteran Alpine Rescuer, to talk about his memoir, to get his insight into the evolution of mountain rescue, and to learn about the challenges facing those in the modern day rescue business.


Wood first began what would become his memoir, Trading Steel for Stone: Tales of a Rustbelt Refugee turned Rocky Mountain Rescuer, after responding to a string of suicides in the mountains in 2006.

What started as an article focused on mental health evolved in to a sometimes humorous sometimes sobering account of how Wood’s experiences growing up in the Rustbelt and his own risky decisions informed and shaped his career in mountain rescue.

In the memoir, the narrator functions both as subject and guide, dispelling myths about search and rescue and interrogating the sometimes fine line between rescuer and those in need of rescue. Rather than chronicling war stories, Wood offers an honest account of his experiences and reminds us of the humanity and fallibility with which we all wrestle.


Tom Wood is the Field Director of the Alpine Rescue Team in Evergreen, Colorado and writes curriculum and teaches industrial rope rescue and safety for Vertical Rescue Solutions by Pigeon Mountain Industries. He is a regular speaker and presenter for the Mountain Rescue Association, the National Association for Search and Rescue, and the International Technical Rescue Symposium. He is also a U.S. delegate for Terrestrial Rescue to the International Commission of Alpine Rescue. He holds a degree in photojournalism from Kent State University and served as a Combat Photographer for the United States Marine Corps Reserve.

His memoir, Trading Steel for Stone: Tales of a Rustbelt Refugee turned Rocky Mountain Rescuer was released in 2016 and is a behind the scenes look into the exciting and rarely glimpsed world of one of America’s busiest mountain rescue teams as well as a humorous and heartfelt memoir that lays bare the inner workings of a former journalist/Marine/roofer learning the hard way to balance his risk-taking personality and passion for rescue with the conflicting need for a sense of family and his search for religion.

Learn more about Tom Wood’s writing here.

Photo Credits: MRA 2010: Marc Beverly, 2009 Quandary: Alpine Rescue Team, 1982 Tom Wood
Stock media provided by seastockaudio/

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