A Squaw Valley patroller died yesterday morning, before the resort opened, doing avalanche control work at the top of the Gold Coast Ridge area. The fatal tragedy is believed to be the result of an accidental explosives detonation, and not the direct result of an avalanche, according to Squaw. A memorial fund has been created in the patroller's honor, and has raised nearly $100,000 in less than one day, the resort reports.
Joe Zuiches, 42, was a member of the Squaw patrol since 2012. He lived in Olympic Valley, Calif., and had a wife and son, according to Squaw. Donations to the Joe Zuiches Memorial Fund can be made through GoFundMe here.
"It’s often forgotten that ski patrollers are putting their lives on the line every day, fighting the most dangerous storms to make sure skiers and boarders can enjoy a day of fresh powder," memorial fund spokesperson Emma Tiernon said in an emailed statement. Squaw Valley closed the day of the fatal accident, and has reopened.
Squaw, and the whole Tahoe region, is getting buried in snow this season, seemingly setting new records daily. Squaw broke a 45-year record in mid-January, recording 15 feet of snow for the month—and it keeps piling up.
From the resort:
(Squaw Valley, Calif.) January 24, 2017 – Joe Zuiches, a 42 year-old resident of Truckee, CA and a member of the Squaw Valley professional ski patrol since 2012, was killed in a fatal incident at 8:35 AM this morning, prior to regularly scheduled operations, during avalanche control activities at the top of Gold Coast Ridge at Squaw Valley. The cause is believed to be the detonation of an explosive charge, and does not appear to be avalanche related. An investigation is ongoing in cooperation with the Placer County Sheriff’s Office and North Tahoe Fire Department. Updates will be posted here as they become available.
The team at Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows is deeply saddened by this tragic event, and we extend our deepest sympathies to the family and friends affected. Joe is survived by his wife and infant son.
The Joe Zuiches Memorial Fund has been established and is available here through Go Fund Me.