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‘Celebrate life as best as we can’: Basalt local David Turner remembered for enthusiasm for the outdoors

A man in a blue jacket stands with skis on a mountain
Courtesy of the Turner family
David Turner brought enthusiasm, joy and laughter to outdoor adventures, according to his family and friends. The 70-year-old Basalt resident moved to the Roaring Fork Valley in 2021 and joined the Buttermilk ski school last year as an instructor.

Buttermilk Mountain ski instructor David Turner brought enthusiasm, joy and kindness to a life of outdoor adventure, according to the friends, family and coworkers now mourning his death.

“I've always known that my dad is a pretty humble person,” one of his daughters, Stephanie Turner said in a phone interview on Jan. 12. “I just didn't realize how many friends he had, and how for a lot of us, including myself, he really introduced us to just his passion for the outdoors and how that was really contagious when you were around him.”

Turner, a 70-year-old Basalt resident with deep roots on the Front Range, died on Jan. 5 from injuries sustained in a collision with a tree while skiing off-duty with friends at Aspen Highlands on Jan. 3, according to a press release from the Pitkin County Coroner’s Office and a statement from Aspen Skiing Company. The cause of death was “blunt force trauma,” according to the coroner.

Additional details about the accident provided by SkiCo indicate the accident occurred off the Olympic Bowl catwalk at the base of the “Why Not” run, where the run ends at the catwalk.

Ski patrol was on the scene in four minutes and initiated advanced life saving measures for Turner, who was unresponsive. They were able to reestablish vitals and Turner was transported to an ambulance at the bottom of the hill. He died two days later.

Mountaineer and “Into Thin Air” author Jon Krakauer lamented the loss of his friend and adventure partner in an Instagram post sharing photo memories of Turner skiing in expansive mountain ranges.

“We lost a beloved member of the tribe when Dave Turner perished in a skiing accident,” Krakauer wrote. “He was a very special man who contributed to the Colorado mountain community in countless ways. Many of us are grieving deeply.”

Stephanie said the outdoors were her father’s “happy place,” in part for the “thrill” of nature, but also because “the beauty and probably the movement quieted his mind from just everyday life, and allowed him to be out there and connect with himself or whoever he was with.”

She also recalled her father’s relentless positivity, regardless of the conditions in the outdoors.

“I would say his other climbing and skiing partners would probably agree with me that my dad usually didn't say anything negative, even if you were like, ‘Wow, that was like, the worst ski run I just took of my life,’” she said. “He was just ready for more, ready for the next adventure. I think he just was really loved because he's really fun to be around.”

Her father also instilled life lessons as he took his daughters into the outdoors, Stephanie said.

“Going outside reminds me that I'm just a very small part in this very large, beautiful world, and that even though there's problems in my life, or the things I'm going through now, that it's going to be okay,” she said. “Nature, it comes back. It's resilient. I find peace in that personally.”

Stephanie said that she feels her father’s presence in the outdoors.

“I think my dad is out there in spirit in nature and calling his friends and loved ones to remember him and join him in the outdoors and celebrate life as best as we can,” she said. “And it doesn't have to be in the ways that he appreciated it, but in whatever way that you appreciate nature, and I know that's where I will find my dad.”

SkiCo issued a statement Wednesday afternoon mourning the “tragic loss” of Turner, identified as “our good friend and fellow Buttermilk Ski Pro.” Turner joined the Buttermilk ski school last year and was certified as an Alpine Level 2 ski instructor with Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA) , according to the statement.

“He’d recently retired as a practicing attorney to further pursue his life-long passion for technical rock climbing, mountaineering, hiking, mountain biking, backcountry skiing, alpine skiing and of course helping people learn to ski,” the statement reads. “He is survived by his wife of 40 years and two adult daughters who credit David with leaving them with an exceptional sense of love and adventure.”

The Turner family has established an online memorial ateverloved.com/life-of/david-ahle-turner, where dozens of extended family members and friends have shared memories of laughter, spirited endeavors and Turner’s unbridled enthusiasm for the outdoors.

In lieu of flowers, the family encourages donations to The Access Fund and Doctors Without Borders USA, which can be made through the online memorial website.

Turner was an advocate for climbing access on the Front Range and an active member of the Flatirons Climbing Council; supporters are also encouraged to consider donating to the council.

A celebration of life will be planned for late spring or early summer in the Boulder area, according to the online memorial.

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Kaya Williams is the Edlis Neeson Arts and Culture Reporter at Aspen Public Radio, covering the vibrant creative and cultural scene in Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley. She studied journalism and history at Boston University, where she also worked for WBUR, WGBH, The Boston Globe and her beloved college newspaper, The Daily Free Press. Williams joins the team after a stint at The Aspen Times, where she reported on Snowmass Village, education, mental health, food, the ski industry, arts and culture and other general assignment stories.