Case of missing lift operator confounds police

By Troy Hooper
Real AspenDecember 7, 2010
It was one of those Saturday nights when Aspen was heaving with energy.
Fireworks over Aspen Mountain
Jon Barnes
The Ultimate Taxi

Fireworks exploded above Aspen Mountain, illuminating the night sky minutes after the band Blind Melon played a free, outdoor concert for the masses gathered in Gondola Plaza. The Ski Tuners Ball raged at a private residence down near the Roaring Fork River. High-rollers cocktailed at an Aspen Peak soiree on the Dancing Bear's rooftop terrace. Everywhere you turned, it seemed, a party was breaking out.

George Aldrich, a 28-year-old lift operator who had moved here a month earlier from Rhode Island, had gotten off work after the lifts closed that sunny Saturday, Nov. 27. After cleaning up at home, he took a bus into Aspen to check out the Blind Melon show. He later mingled at Eric's Bar.

At 10:15 p.m, Aldrich mistakenly climbed aboard a bus bound for Truscott when he meant to go to Snowmass Village, where he lived in a Club Commons apartment with other resort workers. A woman told police that after getting off at Truscott, he explained to her he had taken the wrong bus and asked for a lift home. She didn't have a car, she answered, and watched him walk back in the direction of the bus stop.

The following Monday, when he didn't show up for work, a missing person report was filed. No one has seen or heard from him since. His cell phone is dead. His family members report that the last call made on his cell occurred the night he disappeared, roughly an hour and a half before the commencement of the fireworks extravaganza.

Ten days have passed and there's still no trace of Aldrich. It's as if he vanished in thin air.
A photo taken of George Aldrich at Eric's Bar the night he went missing.

His father and brothers came to Aspen, desperate to learn where “Georgie” went.

A helicopter and plane have flown above the valley looking for the missing man. As of press time, Aspen, Truscott, Snowmass Village, Brush Creek and Owl Creek valleys and portions of the Highway 82 corridor had been searched by members of Mountain Rescue Aspen, the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office, Aspen Police Department and the Snowmass Police Department. They searched the areas on foot, snowmobile and brought in K-9 units to try to pick up Aldrich's trail.

So far, they haven't had much success. But there have been clues.

A highly regarded bloodhound from Denver on Monday picked up Aldrich's scent at Truscott and traced it to the bus stop at the Aspen Country Inn, about a third of a mile farther down Highway 82. That's where the trail goes cold.

“The handler's opinion was that Mr. Aldrich most likely got into a vehicle at that point,” said Bill Linn, an assistant police chief for the Aspen Police Department.

Aldrich was dressed for the outdoors and wearing a snowboard jacket. The temperatures in Aspen were cold Nov. 27 but warmer than the sub-zero record low set two days before on Thanksgiving Day. Since then, temperatures climbed higher.

Aldrich's family is optimistic he is safe. Still, as each day passes, their hopes diminish.

Right now, family members say they are waiting for the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority to locate more video of Aldrich. The bus agency was able to track down footage of him boarding the bus to Truscott. If he had taken another bus from the Aspen Country Inn, maybe there will be more tape of Aldrich.

“The most important thing right now is to look at the surveillance from RFTA,” said Aldrich's brother Sean, who flew to Aspen for the search. “We're just waiting to get a look at the surveillance tape.”

The Pitkin County Sheriff's Office, which took control of the incident from Aspen and Snowmass police on Tuesday, is seeking input from state and regional search and rescue specialists to augment and review the current efforts.

Many residents have taken it upon themselves to look for Aldrich.

They have walked trails, posted flyers and talked with friends and strangers about his mysterious disappearance.

“At this time, the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office is also seeking input from the public. Any information the public may have about George Aldrich, his actions Saturday November 27th or information about his whereabouts is being sought,” read a press release that authorities sent out Tuesday night. “Furthermore, if members of the public are searching on their own, the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office would like to know about their findings. Any information, no matter how small, should be reported to the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office at (970) 920-5300.”

This is a strange case for Aspen.

“It's pretty extraordinary,” Linn said. “When people tend to be missing around here, they're missing for short periods of time. We'll get missing person reports fairly routinely that are cleared up within an hour of the call. This case is dramatically different. We are throwing every resource we have at it."

comments: 1 Comment on "Case of missing lift operator confounds police"

brooke a – Dec. 08, 2010, at 7:38 a.m.

Thank you to everyone working on this case! Aspen is doing a wonderful job in trying to find my brother. Please keep him in your thoughts and prayers and I know he will be found!

God bless you all!

You can get updates as they come in at Find George Aldrich on facebook.

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