RENO, Nev. (AP) — A Lake Tahoe ski resort reopened on Wednesday, a day after a ski patrol member was killed in an accident involving explosives used to artificially trigger an avalanche.
Squaw Valley ski resort reopened its slopes in honor of Joe Zuiches after consulting with members of the ski patrol team who said their veteran colleague and avid outdoorsman would have wanted it that way, said Squaw Valley Ski Holdings president and CEO Andy Wirth.
“As we resume operations we do so in Joe’s memory, with heavy hearts and with Joes’ family foremost in our thoughts,” Wirth said. “Joe was a beloved leader in our patrol, one who served as a great member for his team and we will never forget his dedication to his fellow patrollers and to the safety of our guests.”
Wirth had said after closing the resort Tuesday that it could be days for the reopening of the resort in the mountains north of Tahoe City, California.
Authorities have said Zuiches, 42, was carrying an undisclosed amount of ammonium nitrate based charges as part of two, two-men teams working to reduce the threat of a natural avalanche when the explosion happened at about 8:30 a.m.
Placer County Sheriff’s Lt. Alfredo Guitron said a team of explosives specialists was called in to safely recover undetonated charges. That delayed until Tuesday afternoon the removal of Zuiches’ body from the mountain that was the site of the 1960 Winter Olympics.
An autopsy of his body was planned by the Placer County Coroner’s office, which will conduct an autopsy to determine the official cause of death while the sheriff continues to investigate.
Zuiches, an emergency medical technician, started with the Squaw Valley ski patrol in 2012 and was an accomplished mountaineer who had climbed Mt. Rainer and Mt. Hood in addition to reaching California’s Mt. Shasta’s 14,180-foot summit more than 50 times.
Rich Meyer, who worked with him at Shasta Mountain Guides in Northern California, told the Reno-Gazette-Journal that Zuiches was “a great example of a guy who could lead a team to the top and back super safely.”
More than 2,000 people have contributed nearly $140,000 to the GoFundMe memorial established for his surviving wife and infant son.
It was the most viewed fundraising campaign Wednesday on the site, said Bobby Whithorne, GoFundMe’s strategic communications director.