Avalanche Recovery Unsuccessful So Far

(Aspen, CO) Working with professionals from Mountain Rescue

Aspen, the Colorado Avalanche Information Center and Snowmass Ski Patrol, the Pitkin County

Sheriff’s Office suspended body recovery operations due to darkness. A break in the weather on

Thursday provided rescuers with an opportunity to recover Zukoff’s body. On Tuesday, February 22nd,

26-year-old Brandon John Zukoff of Michigan was skiing with two friends when he was buried by an

avalanche in Sand’s Chute, located in the East Snowmass Creek backcountry.

At 4:00 p.m. today, 18 professional rescuers from Mountain Rescue Aspen, Snowmass Ski Patrol and

the Colorado Avalanche Information Center entered the East Snowmass Creek backcountry. The group

of rescuers consisted of two ground teams, a spotting team and a staging team. Each ground team

accessed the backcountry area by snowmobile with the intention of skinning to the avalanche site. A

helicopter from Denver had been part of the original plan but was unable to reach the area due to

inclement weather encountered en-route.

A team from Snowmass Ski Patrol provided avalanche control earlier in the day. The control work

provided by Patrol was done in an effort to reduce the risk of another slide prior to ground teams

reaching the site. According to reports from the field, another slide was triggered during these

operations prior to the ground teams’ arrival. This new slide ran the length of the Sand’s Chute reaching

Zukoff’s body at the bottom. Teams were able to reach the avalanche site but were forced to suspend

their operations due to darkness. All rescue personnel were out of the field by 08:30 p.m.

The Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office, Mountain Rescue Aspen and the Colorado Avalanche Information

Center will continue to monitor weather conditions. Future recovery efforts are contingent upon the

stability of the snowpack and favorable weather conditions. The National Weather Service has posted a

Winter Weather Advisory for the area through 6 p.m. Saturday

Posted on Friday, February 25, 2011