CARRABASSETT VALLEY — A 41-year-old Canadian man who was visiting Sugarloaf ski resort with his wife and two children died Thursday after he skied into a tree.

David Morse, of Harmony, Nova Scotia, died shortly after 5 p.m. in an ambulance that was en route to Franklin Memorial Hospital in Farmington, Carrabassett Valley Police Chief Scott Nichols said. It is the first skier death at Sugarloaf this winter. The police department also acts as the resort’s security force.

When members of Sugarloaf Ski Patrol responded to the accident scene at 3:43 p.m. amid falling snow, they found Morse conscious and alert, wearing goggles and a helmet. As an intermediate skier, he told them he wasn’t used to skiing on powder, Nichols said.

Morse told rescue workers that the edge of his skis had caught in the snow, causing him to lose control and speed into the woods off Lower Timberline trail.

Though the route on the western side of the mountain is described as an easier trail, it has “wide, sweeping turns, and you can get some speed on it,” Nichols said. Morse’s wife and children were not skiing with him at the time of the crash, Nichols said.

Morse was manager of the largest branch of Valley Credit Union, in Greenwood, Nova Scotia. On his answering machine in his office, he recorded a message saying he would return to work Monday.

Bill Falconer, vice president of organizational development at the credit union, hired Morse on July 12, 1999. He learned of his employee’s death when he arrived at work Friday morning, before he had even taken off his coat.

The employees of the small credit union are in shock, particularly the nine workers at the Greenwood branch, which closed Friday because of Morse’s death, he said.

Michael Wark, president and chief executive officer of Valley Credit Union, said the bank’s employees are devastated.

The Greenwood branch is undergoing renovations, Falconer said, and workers had moved in Morse’s new furniture on Thursday, the day he died. When Morse got back from vacation, he was supposed to have returned to a new office.

“He was loved by all his employees and will be sadly missed. He was very involved in our community, in soccer, hockey, basketball, and he also loved golf. He coached a lot of kids’ teams and really took a keen interest in those,” Falconer said.

He described Morse as family oriented. “He and his wife and two boys were always doing things together — skiing trips, camping trips, canoeing.”

It was first reported that Morse is from Kingston, but he actually lived in nearby Harmony, Falconer said.

Sandy Deveau lived for more than 25 years in Harmony, not far from Morse’s parents. The small farming community is also home to South Mountain.

“We knew David as one of the mountain boys,” she wrote in an email on Friday. She and her husband later relied on Morse and the credit union for their business accounts.

“I would sum it up that if you lived in Harmony, you certainly knew your neighbors, one and all. David and his entire family are good Christians, who were very much involved in the local church and all the small community activities,” she wrote. “Everyone, and I mean everyone, in Harmony is in deep mourning over this tragedy. Many of the residents there are elderly and have known David since he was born.”

Ethan Austin, communications manager at Sugarloaf, said the mountain got seven inches of snow on Thursday, which fell on top of a base of mostly man-made snow. Between October and Thursday, a total of 35 inches of snow fell on the mountain.

The skiing was good on Friday, but people were subdued because of Morse’s death, he said.

It took ski patrol 12 minutes to get Morse off the mountain and convey him to the Sugarloaf First Aid Clinic near the base lodge, Nichols said.

“They usually transport by a toboggan. They’ll isolate the patient and then they’ll ski them down the hill to a vehicle at the foot of the hill,” he said. “From there, they transport to the clinic.”

He did not know the exact nature of Morse’s injuries.

A spokesman for the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner said an official cause of death would probably be released next week.

Paramedics from NorthStar Ambulance took over Morse’s care once he arrived at the clinic. They encountered treacherous roads on the way to the Farmington hospital.

“The roads were extremely slippery,” Nichols said. “Travel wasn’t much more than 35 mph out there — a lot of things working against us.”

The drive from Sugarloaf to the hospital normally takes about an hour.

“It is an unfortunate accident. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family,” Nichols said. “These folks are from out of the country. It’s going to be a very difficult situation for them.”

Sugarloaf General Manager John Diller said in a press release the Sugarloaf skiers are a close-knit group “and a loss like this is felt throughout the community.”

Erin Rhoda — 612-2368

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