NEWS

Skier dies after hitting tree at Alberta resort

12/27/2011 12:56 EST | Updated 02/26/2012 05:12 EST

Rick Butler, the deputy reeve of Rock View County, is being remembered Tuesday as man who spent much of his life contributing to his community as an administrator and politician.

Butler, a lifelong skier, was severely injured after hitting an icy patch and striking a tree while skiing with his daughters at Nakiska Mountain Resort Monday.

Corrie Butler, 22, was with her father on the ski hill at the time of the accident and witnessed the whole thing.

"I went into survival mode and wanted to be there for my dad," she told CBC News. "I stayed calm and I stayed brave for him because I think that's what he wanted."

His family said he was a friend to absolutely everyone who met him.

"No one could resist Rick's enthusiastic and exuberant personality and the laugh that came with it," his family wrote in his obituary. "He listened in such a way as to make everyone believe they were the most important person and task at hand."

Nakiska officials say Butler was on a ski run called the Mighty Peace when he lost control and crashed into a tree. CBC was told the accident left him with severe neck and back injuries.

Cam Heke, of STARS air ambulance, said Butler was in critical condition when STARS arrived on scene but his condition started to get worse and both the STARS ambulance crew and EMS decided it would be best to drive him to Calgary.

"He had life-threatening injuries and it was decided the patient would continue to be transported by ground ambulance to Foothills Medical Centre in Calgary," said Heke.

The decision was made because the ambulance had three medics and a nurse on board, as well as a fireman driving the vehicle.

"The level of care was vastly increased by having all four in the back of the ambulance," said Stuart Brideaux of Calgary EMS.

Butler died at hospital Tuesday morning. Nakiska is about 90 kilometres west of Calgary.

Remembered as dedicated politician

Butler, 58, was born and raised in Edmonton. He graduated from the University of Alberta and started his career in Rankin Inlet before moving through the ranks of the government of the Northwest Territories.

Butler moved to Yellowknife in 1980 and then to Whitehorse in 1982 to become deputy minister of Municipal Affairs with the Yukon Government. Butler married Gwynneth Penny in 1978, later starting a family in Whitehorse after travelling the world with his wife.

He then worked in Revelstoke, B.C., where his passion for skiing was reignited. He moved to Cochrane, Alta., in 1998 where he was the chief executive office of the Stony Nakoda Nation for a brief time before returning to the North to the new territory of Nunavut where his role was to help develop the new capital city of Iqaluit.

Butler was elected to Rocky View County council in October 2010 after stepping down as the head of Calgary Regional Partnership (CRP) earlier that year.

Truper McBride, the mayor of Cochrane, knew Butler for more than a decade through their work together on the CRP — an organization looking to plan sustainable growth in the Calgary region for decades to come.

"He was somebody that saw how we needed to do things better and he spent his life making things better," he said.

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said he is deeply saddened by the news of Butler's unexpected passing.

"He will be remembered as a committed public servant and community builder," he said in a statement. "In particular, I recall with gratitude his visionary leadership on the Calgary Regional Partnership, which helped set a new path forward for all the people who call this area home."

Butler leaves behind his wife Gwyn and two daughters, Corrie and Marni, 20.

Funeral services will be held at RockPointe Church west of Calgary on Jan. 4.

MORE:cbcNews