Search for skier takes to the skies |

Search for skier takes to the skies

Scott Condon/The Aspen TimesAspen Highlands Ski Patrol Director Mac Smith, sitting, assigns volunteers trails to sweep in the search for missing skier Jeff Walker. About 24 skiers and snowboarders showed up at 9 a.m. to help. More showed up later in the morning.

ASPEN – Searchers were preparing to use a Recco Rescue System on Monday afternoon to try to locate Aspen resident Jeff Walker, who has been missing since Thursday and was last known to be skiing at Aspen Highlands.

Pitkin County sheriff’s Deputy Alex Burchetta said friends believe Walker had a permanent Recco reflector in a pocket of his ski jacket. A helicopter carrying a Recco detector was scheduled to fly over Aspen Highlands after the ski area closed Monday afternoon to try to pick up a signal from Walker’s reflector, Burchetta said. The effort wasn’t launched sooner Monday, he said, because the detector would react to any skier or snowboarder carrying a reflector.

The Recco search equipment sends out a radar signal, according to the company’s website. The reflector generates a return signal when hit by the radar signal. The company’s website said the system’s range in the air is around 200 meters, which will require the helicopter to fly relatively low to the ground.

The high-tech search followed intensive field efforts over the previous two days. An estimated 60 people helped search terrain Sunday, friends of Walker’s estimated. Roughly two dozen people assembled at the top of the Loge chairlift at Highlands at 9 a.m. Monday to resume the search, which was coordinated by the Aspen Highlands Ski Patrol. The numbers of volunteer searchers swelled to well more than 30 as the morning wore on, patrol members said.

Searchers were divided into pairs, then organized into larger teams and assigned to sweep specific terrain by patrol director Mac Smith. The teams concentrated on terrain from the top of Loge to mid-mountain Monday. Ski patrollers with dogs covered Highland Bowl while members of Mountain Rescue Aspen combed the Temerity terrain.

Walker’s pass was last scanned at the Exhibition chairlift at the Highlands base at 12:04 p.m. Thursday, according to Aspen Skiing Co. He was reported missing Saturday evening. Highland Bowl was the focus of the initial search because friends said Walker skied the bowl nearly every day.

See more in Tuesday’s Aspen Times about the search as well as online updates as warranted.

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