Search continues for missing local

by Carolyn Sackariason, Aspen Daily News Staff Writer

A massive hunt for well-known Aspen local Jeff Walker was launched on Sunday at Aspen Highlands, his last known whereabouts, and the search will continue today.

Approximately 60 people, including Mountain Rescue Aspen (MRA) personnel, Highlands Ski Patrol and his friends, searched the entire ski area, specifically the bowl, where Walker reportedly goes on a daily basis. MRA also searched in out-of-bounds sections off the ski area looking for Walker, whose ski pass was last scanned at the Exhibition chairlift on Thursday at 12:04 p.m.

“It’s our belief and assumption that is where he is,” said Aspen Skiing Co. spokesman Jeff Hanle of Walker still being on Highlands.

Friends grew concerned on Saturday after not hearing from Walker; his wallet, street clothes and cell phone were found in his ski locker.

Hanle said SkiCo was notified of Walker’s disappearance on Saturday night and Sunday’s search was organized immediately. Search personnel were not able to detect any signs of Walker during their search on Sunday.

At 9:30 p.m. on Saturday, the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office was notified of a missing person by the Aspen Police Department, which initially took the call because Walker lives within the city limits.

This morning, SkiCo will assemble ski patrollers from all four mountains, including their rescue dogs, and resume the search.

 Courtesy photo
A massive search operation is underway for Jeff Walker, pictured in this undated handout photo, in and around the Aspen Highlands Ski Area where his ski pass was scanned Thursday afternoon. Friends of Walker notified authorities of his disappearance on Saturday.

“We will get as many patrollers out there without impacting operations” at other ski areas, Hanle said. “We’ll put every possible resource we can out there.”

Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo said between eight and 10 MRA personnel were deployed on Sunday to comb the ski area in search of Walker.

MRA personnel will again be involved in the search today. Walker’s friends Sunday evening were organizing to be part of the search today. Friends posted on Facebook, asking that people meet at 9 a.m. today at the base of Highlands to form a posse of searchers. People are asked to check with ski patrol for marching orders.

“We want to try and get as many people as possible out there,” said Nate Harnish, a friend of Walker’s. He added that even if people don’t want to hike the bowl, the entire ski area needs to be combed.

“We need people to check the whole mountain,” Harnish said.

Walker, known in the community for his wine expertise and involvement with area restaurants, typically went to the same places when he skied, which was usually Highland Bowl.

Friends, family members and authorities are asking anyone who may have seen Walker riding the chairlift, or hiking the bowl, to call the sheriff’s office with information at 970 920-5300. He was last seen wearing a blue ski jacket and black pants.

Rich Burkley, SkiCo’s vice president of operations, met with a large gathering of Walker’s friends at the base of Highlands on Sunday afternoon to debrief them on the search efforts.