Former Aspenite dies in Canadian avalanche
A former Aspen resident on a helicopter skiing trip with friends from Aspen and Telluride died yesterday in a skier-triggered avalanche near Revelstoke, British Columbia.Stephen Butts, 49, was on an annual backcountry ski trip with a group of around 20 friends to Canada’s Selkirk Mountains. He was skiing a run through trees when he or another skier triggered an avalanche.”It had snowed a lot and the temperatures were rising a little bit, which enhances the danger, but we were in an area in heavy trees not prone to avalanches,” said Aspen resident Scott Davidson, who was skiing with Butts when the incident occurred. “It still gave way. It just goes to show you never know.”Davidson, Butts and Telluride resident Steve Cieciuch were all caught in the slide. Cieciuch severely fractured his leg in two places and is awaiting transfer to Colorado for surgery. Davidson escaped unscathed.Butts lived in Aspen from 1979 to 1990, during which time he owned and managed Telluride Properties, an Aspen-based real estate firm that sold property in Telluride. Each January for nearly 20 years he and friends from Aspen and Telluride organized heli-skiing trips through the Selkirk Tangiers company in Canada. According to the company’s website, Butts was equipped with an avalanche beacon. An unconfirmed report indicates that Butts’ body was recovered quickly but that he was killed instantly by the slide.”I just can’t talk about it right now,” Davidson said. “He was a best friend to all of us on the trip. We’re devastated.”Although this is the first serious incident for the group, Butts’ death comes almost a year to the day after another Aspen resident, Richard Kerr, was killed by an avalanche while skiing in the mountains near Revelstoke. And two years ago, seven skiers and snowboarders, including snowboarding icon Craig Kelly, were killed by a late-January avalanche there.”It’s always such a difficult thing to grasp,” Davidson said. “We know the operation and we’ve always been so careful. It wasn’t anyone’s fault. It’s just one of those things you can’t prepare for.”The group is currently stuck in their ski lodge due to poor road conditions and inclement weather. Other Aspen residents on the trip are John Davis, Mark Bedell, Gary Kelly, Ben Nelson, Todd Sciarone and Larry Yaw.Butts’ body is at a hospital also awaiting transportation to Colorado, where a funeral service in Telluride is scheduled for Sunday.”Right now we’re trying to get out of here,” Davidson said. “We’re trying to get home and get our friend home, too.”Eben Harrell’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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With COVID-19 health and safety practices in place, who is up for a road trip to see the Denver Art Museum’s hotly anticipated exhibition on Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera?