Most-read stories of 2016: Breckenridge budtender featured in ‘High Profits’ in coma after car crash (No. 8)
December 24, 2016
Editor's note: From Dec. 22-31, the Summit Daily will be reposting the 10 most-read stories on summitdaily.com in 2016. The below story is No. 8, originally published on March 16, 2016.
Lauren Hoover, the free-spirited Breckenridge budtender featured in the CNN documentary "High Profits," has been in a coma since a March 2 car accident in Summit County.
Hoover suffered a serious head injury after a head-on collision at around 7:45 a.m. on Highway 6, near Dillon Dam Road. The 26-year-old was commuting to her job at High Country Healing in Silverthorne, a cannabis dispensary where she had worked for the past three months. Because the white-out weather conditions prevented a Flight For Life transport, she was taken by ambulance to the Denver area for emergency treatment.
Hoover's fiance, Brandon Austin, said the doctors at St. Anthony Hospital at Lakewood have done all they can to stabilize her. He said it's now up to her body to determine what happens next.
"Our motto is day to day and love and light," he said. "At this point now, it's really up to Lauren. The doctors have done all they can."
Hoover has lived in Breckenridge for the past 5 years. She quickly made an impact.
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Friend Ali Nitka said that she met Hoover in 2014 when she hired her as a budtender at Breckenridge Cannabis Club, where Nitka was the director of retail. She said that Hoover brought a bright smile and contagious laugh into the store during a tense, controversy-filled time that was later broadcast on CNN and is now available on Netflix.
Along with store owners Brian Rogers and Caitlin McGuire, Hoover was one of the prominent characters featured on "High Profits," a documentary series on the beginnings of legal marijauna retail sales in Colorado.
Hoover, the self-proclaimed "ganja-smokin yogi," cut a striking figure right away in the series, taking bong rips before starting an intense yoga session. Her friends, however, say that she is far deeper than the blonde bohemian depicted on television.
The Colorado Springs native was a central figure in Summit County's marijuana-industry network, having worked as general manager at Breckenridge Cannabis Club before moving over to High Country Healing. She was also a fitness entrepreneur who ran her Funky Buddha Fitness classes at Carter Park.
"I think Lauren's a very special individual," said High Country Healing owner Nick Brown. " Her spirit is very contagious."
Because Hoover was a devoted runner, friends this week will be hosting a "Love & Light Run" to raise money for her hospital bills. The group run will begin at 6 p.m. at Vertical Runner Breckenridge on Wednesday, March 16. The run will wind along her favorite route along the bike path and river trail. There will be blinkies and glow sticks. Runners are encouraged to bring headlamps.
Austin said he has been amazed at how many lives Hoover has impacted, in Breckenridge and through the TV show.
"She always said it was her purpose to spread light and love and encourage people," he said. "Lauren's just a fun, energetic, loving and lighting person. She could have the worst day in her life, and you'd never suspect she had a bad day in her life."
Austin and Hoover have known each for 10 years, dated for 7 and have been engaged for about a year.
Austin's memories of his marriage proposal are now bittersweet. Because they both loved snowboarding, he decided he would propose on a trip to the Canyons Ski Resort in Utah. He had always told himself that he wouldn't proposed from a chairlift (You might drop the ring, after all), but he couldn't wait any longer. She said yes.
He hasn't talked with Hoover since the accident. For now, he waits for her to wake up.
"It just hurts," he said. "It's my best friend. It's the woman I love. To see her in that spot hurts me a lot. It's a huge, hopeless feeling — something I'd never hope on anybody. I'm living a nightmare that just keeps getting worse and worse. I don't know why my fiancée is lying in the hospital fighting for her life."