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First Friday Speaker: Aaron Dover '96

Sarah O'Neill
It is hoped that when Tilton School students leave the Hill, they will go on to make their impact on a world marked by diversity and change. All Tilton alumni have done this in their own way, and Aaron Dover ‘96 is no exception. As a member of the Alpine Rescue Team in Evergreen, Colorado, Dover uses his interests in stories of survival to help people in austere environments.
We welcomed Dover back to school meeting on Friday, April 5, where he presented his story to students and faculty as a First Friday Speaker. As a day student from nearby Sanbornton, New Hampshire, Dover played soccer, hockey, golf, and ran cross country. He also did mountain biking as an independent study.

“Tilton for me was a place to explore things I hadn’t done before,” Dover said of his time on the Hill. “Tilton is a great place to start learning new things, trying new things, and if you’re already good at stuff, to hone those skills too. And the environment there helps foster that.”

After Tilton, Dover’s path was not a linear one. He graduated from the University of New Hampshire in 2000 and moved to Arizona. After growing tired of his desk job, he decided to move back East to Massachusetts. While there, he pursued a newly discovered passion for photography. This career change is what brought him to Colorado, where he ended up in the hotel business and discovered the Alpine Rescue Team.

The Alpine Rescue Team is a humanitarian wilderness search-and-rescue effort based in Evergreen, Colorado. Since 1959, the team has responded to wilderness emergencies day or night, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Situations where the Alpine Rescue would be utilized include fallen climbers, ATV accidents, lost or injured hikers, avalanches. Services are free to any individual or agency having a bad day in the mountains. They respond to about 130 calls per year. Alpine Rescue Team is just one of the many teams that do search and rescue services for the Mountain Rescue Association (MRA). The highly trained volunteers come from very diverse backgrounds, ranging from accountants to rocket scientists. To join, you must be 18 years old with a passion for helping people and being outdoors. Dover and his comrades do this all in the Rocky Mountains which includes four 14,000 foot peaks and dozens of 13,000 footers.

For Dover, an lifelong intrigue for missing persons and penchant for helping people drew him to join the team.

“When I found Alpine Rescue Team in Evergreen Colorado, I was really excited because it involved a lot of things I was interested in: helping people, survival stories, austere environments, and being outside in the mountains,” Dove said. “When I was 6, I remember my dad telling me this story about a kid that was lost up on Red Hill in New Hampshire, a little 6 year old boy. I remember feeling at that point how concerned I was for this kid.”

Through volunteering with the Alpine Rescue Team, he became an Emergency Medical  Technician (EMT) and realized this was a path he wanted to pursue. Currently, he is working to become a registered nurse.

During his First Friday speech, Dover touched on the components that put people situations where they may need assistance from the rescue team, and how to avoid said situations.

“The first component we’re up against adversity is, we’re dealing with odds. There’s a physiological component to how we learn and how we develop as people,” Dover said “From a young age, whether we know it or not, we're always dealing with the odds, subconsciously or consciously. We’re always writing code in our brains, like how is my body going to survive this situation? The more we expose ourselves to it, the more we practice, the more it becomes ingrained in our response. Ultimately that’s what helps us to survive.”

The next component Dover talked about is preparation. Through anecdotal stories of actual rescues he has been on, he explained how humans prepare to tackle challenges that lie ahead is of utmost importance. If you’re going to go out into the outdoors, the Alpine Rescue Team recommends you bring along these 10 essentials:

  • Map
  • Compass
  • Rain gear
  • Extra clothing
  • Food
  • Water
  • Sun protection
  • Knife
  • Shelter
  • Whistle
  • Medical kit

In addition to being prepared by packing correctly and knowing your route, letting someone know where you are going is important. That way, this person is able to alert the authorities if you are not heard from by your estimated return time.

In addition to talking about the odds, Dover said the way we beat the odds is with the ‘evens’. The ‘evens’ is really just about having the mindset that no matter what the challenges are, you are mentally and physically prepared to deal with them.

“Even though the chips might be down or this might not be the situation I wanted or dreamed of or envisioned, I’m going to keep going and make it what I want it to be. That doesn’t have to apply to just crazy rescue stories, it could apply to making it to class on time. It could apply to anything.”

Thank you to Aaron Dover ‘96 for sharing his story with our students and faculty!

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