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Ski Patroller Killed at Squaw Valley

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Editors update, Jan. 24, 2016; 4:03 p.m.; Tuesday’s press conference revealed that there were two two-person teams doing avalanche control on the Gold Coast Ridge route this morning — no one else was injured.

The explosion that killed Joe Zuiches was caused by a hand charge used at ski resorts all across the US, made up of ammonium nitrate (94 percent) and diesel fuel (6 percent) — it is highly regulated by state authorities. The FBI; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; and Placer County’s Explosive Ordinance Disposal team are on site at the incident.

Zuiches’ body has been located but not yet recovered. All ordinances are accounted for except for those in his pack.

“Joe [Zuiches] was considered one of the best of the best who ran avi control, he was highly trained in this field,” said Andy Wirth, president and CEO of Squaw Valley Ski Holdings, at the press conference. Zuiches lived in Olympic Valley with his wife and baby.

Update, Jan. 24, 2016; 2:40 p.m.; The cause is believed to be the detonation of an explosive charge. An investigation is ongoing in cooperation with the Placer County Sheriff’s Office and North Tahoe Fire Department.

Update, Jan. 24, 2016; 12:23 p.m.; Joe Zuiches, a 42-year-old resident of Olympic Valley and a member of the Squaw Valley professional ski patrol since 2012, was killed in a fatal incident at 8:35 a.m. this morning during avalanche control activities. The incident, which occurred at the top of Gold Coast Ridge at Squaw Valley, does not appear to be avalanche related.

North Tahoe Fire Department and the Placer County Sheriff’s Office are on , and an investigation is underway. 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. 

A press conference has been scheduled for 2:00 p.m. today at the Alpenglow Conference Room in The Village at Squaw Valley.

Editors update, Jan. 24, 2016; 12:17 p.m.; A GoFundMe page has been created to pay the patroller's funeral costs, a number estimated to be $7,000. At the time of this update, the page had raised $1,600.60 from 33 donors in one hour.


A fatal incident occurred at Squaw Valley involving a ski patroller at 8:35 a.m. this morning during avalanche control activities. He was an employee of Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows. The victim’s name has not yet been released pending the notification of friends and family. An investigation is underway, and additional updates will be provided as they become available.

The team at Squaw/Alpine is deeply saddened by this tragic event and would like to express our deepest sympathies to the family and friends affected.

Squaw Valley will be closed for the day. Alpine Meadows will be open today.

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February 14, 2019