OLYMPIC VALLEY, Calif. — Whether he was launching into an epic skiing run or just hanging around the Squaw Valley community, you’d be hard-pressed to see Timy Dutton without that trademark toothy grin plastered on his face.
“I never met such a universally happy and good guy. I never heard a single bad word spoken about Timy, and I can’t say that about many people,” said Dutton’s friend, Squaw Valley professional big-mountain skier Cody Townsend. “He was just so happy all the time, so smiley, so funny, and you always wanted to be around him. It brightened up your day to see Timy.”
Dutton, a Lake Tahoe native and professional freeskiing master known by many as “Timy Backflips” and “Rubber Ducky,” died Tuesday afternoon in a skydiving accident. He was 27.
San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Les Garcia said Dutton collided with another Tahoe-area man at about 1:30 p.m. during a parachuting trip at the Parachute Center in Acampo, Calif., at the Lodi Airport.
According to reports, Dutton, an experienced skydiver, was knocked unconscious by the impact and was unable to open his chute. The surviving parachutist, a friend of Dutton’s, suffered minor leg injuries, Garcia said. The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating the incident.
Dutton, a Squaw Valley lifer and former aerialist as a teen, burst onto the freeskiing scene in 2009, winning his first-ever big-mountain competition in the Subaru North American Freeskiing Championships at Kirkwood in March.
Weeks later, in just his second competition, Dutton won the Subaru World Freeskiing Championships at Alyeska Resort in Alaska. The following year, he finished in sixth place on the 2010 Freeride World Tour.
Townsend had known Dutton for 15 years, eventually forging a close friendship after Dutton graduated in 2005 from North Tahoe High School.
When it came to big-mountain skiing, Dutton’s style and preparedness were qualities to admire.
“He was super fluid … you never saw him be scared or hyped up or amped up, he was just relaxed,” Townsend said Wednesday. “And you saw that in his skiing. He did it so easily, so effortlessly, whether he was straight or upside down. He just made it look all so soothing and relaxed.”
Michelle Parker grew up skiing Squaw Valley with Dutton, who she said was “always 100 percent living in the moment.”
“It could have been an epic powder day at Squaw, or he would be equally happy building 2-foot jumps in his backyard and teaching me to do backflips,” Parker said Thursday. “That’s what was so real for me about Timy … he lived in the moment, and he truly embodied what that meant. He was so comfortable in his own skin, and he never cared what other people thought about him.
“Everyone strives to have a life like that, but for Timy, it just came so naturally for him.”
On Wednesday, Parker spoke about Dutton’s ability to make others laugh in an interview with Powder Magazine.
“He was ... always stoked, always happy, always saying the most inappropriate things and not giving a s--- about what anyone thought, and it’d be hilarious,” Parker told the magazine. “... He was that ski buddy. There are only so many of those who come into your life and are on the exact same wavelength as you.”
Dutton’s rise in the sport of freeskiing was chronicled in a 2010 article by ESPN that labeled him the “next big thing” to come out of Squaw. The article featured several quotes from Squaw skiers and winter athletes, including BASE jumper and friend JT Holmes.
“The kid has confidence, without arrogance in the mountains,” Holmes told ESPN. “He has done his time, from winning comps to spending his last pennies taking guide courses in Alaska. It’s nice to see him rising to the top of the ski world.”
Earlier this year, Dutton made the decision to move on from competition.
“Due to the very demanding schedule of the tours, I decided to move away from them and pursue other goals in the sport,” he told ESPN.com this month. “The Squaw Valley mentality is always to give back to the sport that has given us so much.”
Dutton also appeared in several Warren Miller and Matchstick Productions skiing films.
Dutton’s Facebook page has been overflowing with messages of support and tributes once news spread Tuesday evening.
On his page, Dutton’s free spirit is a theme throughout, evidenced by listing “Living the Dream, Inc.” as his work history, and his answer to “Political Views” on his bio: “i live by spiritual principles not politics.”
“It brightened up your day to see Timy.”