Guide service piecing together fatal slide
Dick Jackson, owner of the guide service Aspen Expeditions, yesterday voiced support for the leader of Sunday’s disastrous backcountry tour.John William Jensen, 32, was killed in a large avalanche off the backside of Aspen Highlands. He was among a party of six participating in an avalanche education course led by Aspen Expeditions’ head guide, Amos Whiting.”Amos is on and off, but he’s doing OK,” Jackson said. “He’s got a lot of things to consider. But certainly he’s got all my support – 110 percent; I have strong feelings for him.”Jackson also thanked the Aspen community for its support. “This is difficult stuff,” he said. “The support from people in town has been very meaningful to all of us.”Jensen’s death is a first in Aspen Expeditions’ 28-year history of taking clients to some of the dicier spots in the Rockies and beyond, winter and summer. Jackson and Whiting are among 21 guides in the United States certified with the International Federation of Mountain Guide Associations, the top credential in the business.Jackson was hesitant to discuss the accident yesterday, saying more details would be coming today. He said Aspen Expeditions was still trying to reach out to Jensen’s family.Jackson spent Monday investigating the scene of the slide in the Five Fingers Bowl area, a popular backcountry skiing destination off the east side of the Aspen Highlands ridge.”I want to do this right and it’s a complex issue,” said Jackson, who has owned Aspen Expeditions since 1997. “I’m still putting together a few more pieces – who was doing what, when, where everybody was. It’s important to me to get a feel for the actual specifics of the slide: the bed surface, the crown, where it propagated.”And everyone involved is going to have a slightly different read on things. I’m trying to compile all of that into an accurate account of the accident – not sugar-coated – and present it to the public.”A Pitkin County sheriff’s deputy said Tuesday the county’s investigation into the accident has been closed. “A done deal,” she said.Sunday’s snow-safety course included the victim, Jensen, most recently of New Mexico and California; Whiting, the guide; student Drew Gibson of Colorado Springs; a Snowmass ski patroller here this winter on a patrol-exchange from the ski resort La Parva, near Santiago, Chile; and two other students.Jensen was the only skier caught in the avalanche. He was swept down a gully 3,500 feet and buried in heavy debris until his party reached him and dug him out. The Pitkin County Coroner’s Office said Jensen died of asphyxiation.Tim Mutrie’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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