Family of missing Aspen skier seeks ﬁnancial help for search
ASPEN – Family and friends of Jeff Walker have set up a fundraising website accepting donations to cover expenses related to the search for the missing skier at Aspen Highlands.
The website – http://igg.me/p/find-jeff-walker/x/2676746 – features a personal appeal in a video clip from Walker’s younger brother, Buzz.
“He’s on the mountain somewhere, hurt. Maybe alive, maybe not,” Buzz Walker said in the video.
He continued by saying Jeff Walker is an expert outdoorsman, so if anybody could survive several days outdoors, it would be him.
Walker last was seen March 7, when his ski pass was scanned at Highlands. He was reported missing Saturday evening. Massive searches by authorities, Aspen Highlands ski patrol and public volunteers were undertaken Sunday and Monday. The Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office and Mountain Rescue Aspen suspended their search after Monday’s effort yielded no clues. The ski patrol and volunteers have continued looking. Scores of Walker’s friends and skiers who didn’t know him but are concerned have volunteered their time this week.
Mountain Rescue Aspen reconsidered the suspension of its activities Wednesday.
“We’re going to send a small team back in the field (Thursday),” said Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Alex Burchetta. The team will search the area below the Olympic Bowl catwalk, a long traverse that collects skiers and riders at the bottom of numerous experts runs and shots on upper western side of the ski area. The terrain beneath the catwalk is steep and heavily timbered.
Burchetta said there was no particular tip or clue that is leading Mountain Rescue Aspen to check that area. After consulting a map, search leaders decided there was an “opportunity” to recheck some terrain, he said.
Walker, 55, is a wine consultant and salesman who is well-known and liked within the food and beverage industry. He lives at Hunter Creek Condominiums in Aspen.
The Walker family hired a helicopter that carried trained spotters Wednesday to check drainages and gullies outside the ski area’s boundary, according to Aspen Skiing Co. spokesman Jeff Hanle. No sign of Walker was found after the fourth day of searching.
“We won’t stop looking till we find him, but many of us are out of resources to continue and your giving can help offset this,” the message from the family says at the fundraising website. “Help us find Jeff!! His family and friends are missing him dearly.”
Volunteers assisting the ski patrol are checking tree wells in the expert terrain that Walker liked to ski. The thought is that Walker possibly hit a tree, fell into the well at the base of the trunk and was covered by the 10 inches of snow that fell Saturday at Aspen Highlands. Searches have mounted a “Tie One on for Jeff” campaign where a green ribbon is affixed to trees checked. Family and friends also organized have prayer circles in recent days, enlisted help from psychics and covered expenses to keep a strong search.
Buzz Walker said in the video clip that all collections will go to “reimburse the helpers.” Any funds remaining at the conclusion of the search will be donated to the ski patrol, he said.
“The costs are adding up, frankly; no two ways about it,” he said.
The family has a goal of raising $10,000 by 10 p.m. Thursday. As of 5 p.m. Wednesday, $800 had been raised.
“Everybody’s been awesome so far,” Buzz Walker said in the clip at the fundraising site. “Keep us in your thoughts and prayers.”
Hanle said Aspen Highlands ski patrol’s search for Walker will continue.
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