The survival of the couple and four children who spent two frigid nights lost in the Nevada mountains was called “a miracle” by rescuers. But experts say it actually was a series of smart moves, including heating rocks to warm their rolled-over Jeep, that saved the group after they were stuck in the snow.

“That was a good idea,” said Dr. Zach Sturges, a Bozeman, Mont., emergency physician and faculty member at the Salt Lake City’s Intermountain Institute for Disaster Preparedness. “Rocks make a great thermal mass if you can build an outside fire to heat them and as long as they’re cleaned so they don’t give off any gases.”

The Nevada family — James Glanton, 34, his girlfriend, Christina McIntee, 25, and their two children and McIntee’s niece and nephew — also chose to stay with their overturned vehicle, a decision that made it easier for rescuers to spot them Tuesday, said Eric Larsen, a Boulder, Colo., adventurer who in 2010 led expeditions to the North Pole, the South Pole and Mount Everest. Trying to hike out of a bad situation can be more dangerous because of the risk of getting lost, frostbite or falling and injuring a leg. Even a car sitting on its roof can still provide shelter from wind, said Larsen.

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