After his AP Chemistry students completed their AP exam, Conifer High School teacher Brian Bunnell had a tradition of creating tie-dye shirts with the class during finals week. He is seen here with student Ashley Silvernale. Bunnell died in an avalanche on Dec. 26.(COREY NEUMEIER PHOTO)

This story first appeared in a Colorado Community Media newspaper. Support CCM’s neighborhood news. The Colorado Sun is an owner of CCM.

By Maya Dawson, Conifer High School

Conifer High School chemistry teacher Brian Bunnell was known by students for his booming laugh and love for the outdoors. He was the first to volunteer at school pep assemblies and inspired many students to pursue careers in the science and medical fields.

Bunnell, 44, died in a Dec. 26 avalanche on Berthoud Pass while backcountry snowboarding with his three sons, who survived. All four were caught in the Grand County slide.

Bunnell grew up in Fargo, North Dakota, where he competed on the Fargo North High School swim and cross-country teams. His father remembers a state swim race during this time.

“When he started to overtake his opponent, his teammates started yelling, ‘Go, Brian, go,’” Ron Bunnell said.

Soon, everyone at the swim meet joined the chant: “Go, Brian, go! GO, BRIAN, GO!”

Brian won the race, but it was only the beginning of a lifelong love of adventure, many of which he shared with his family. Brian and his wife, Kelly, were high school sweethearts.

“We have been married for 20 years,” Kelly said. “He was the love of my life. He was hilarious, he had the best laugh, and this is hard.”

Brian graduated from Duke University and taught chemistry and Advanced Placement chemistry at Conifer High School for seven years. 


Colorado Community Media is a collection of 24 hyperlocal weekly newspapers that reach 350,000 residents. Some of its newspapers have been around for more than 100 years. In 2021, Colorado Community Media was bought by the Colorado...