ASPEN - The body of a skier, presumably that of Jeff Walker, who has been missing since March 7, was discovered by a snowboarder in an out-of-bounds section of the Northwoods area of Aspen Highlands on Wednesday afternoon, the Pitkin County Sheriff's Office said.
Sheriff Joe DiSalvo said deputies, the Pitkin County coroner and members of the Aspen Highlands ski patrol will investigate the death and likely recover the body Thursday. They will begin efforts at 7 a.m., he said.
"It was too late in the day to get up there today," DiSalvo said Wednesday night. "We want to do it the right way, not the fast way. This community has a right to get the correct answer about what happened."
The snowboarder notified ski patrol about the body, the sheriff said. Ski patrollers confirmed that a body was in the location -"not too far out of bounds and near a tree," DiSalvo said - but did not come closer than within 20 to 30 yards of it.
The Sheriff's Office had an agreement that ski patrol would not have contact with the body if it was discovered and would notify law enforcement immediately, DiSalvo said.
The body has not been identified, but DiSalvo said the person was wearing a blue ski jacket, like the one Walker was last seen wearing.
Undersheriff Ron Ryan said, "The ski patrol did confirm that they found a deceased male, but they kept their distance until we are able to get there and investigate the scene."
Both DiSalvo and Ryan said that there is no confirmation that it is Walker whose body was found. The sheriff, however, said that he notified Walker's mother that a body had been located.
Walker, 55, a wine consultant and salesman and Aspen resident was seen last at Aspen Highlands on March 7. His pass was scanned at the Exhibition chairlift at 12:04 p.m. Friends said he is an expert skier who skied Highland Bowl every day.
While Walker last was seen March 7, he was not reported missing until March 9.
Massive searches by authorities, Aspen Highlands ski patrol and public volunteers ensued. The Pitkin County Sheriff's Office and Mountain Rescue Aspen suspended their search after Monday. The ski patrol and volunteers continued looking.
The Sheriff's Office also conducted a so-called "rest of the world" investigation, speaking to Walker's friends and relatives and collecting financial and personal information about him. Walker has lived at Hunter Creek Condominiums in Aspen.