(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