In-bounds avalanche buries 2 people at Castle Mountain Resort

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Two people were caught in an in-bounds avalanche at Castle Mountain Resort in southwestern Alberta on Friday.

It happened near the top station of the Tamarack (Red) chairlift.

Officials say one person was fully buried and another partially buried. Both were rescued by ski patrollers.

« EMS was activated as the situation unfolded and both patients were found to be uninjured after an initial assessment, » read a statement from Castle Mountain Resort. 

« This avalanche did not damage any Castle Mountain Resort infrastructure (including lifts). »

Castle Mountain Resort is about 250 kilometres southwest of Calgary, near Waterton Lakes National Park.

More snow means more risk

The avalanche danger rating for that area was « high » at the alpine and treeline levels and « considerable » below the treeline, where it is expected to remain throughout the Family Day long weekend.

Those heading into the backcountry to enjoy the Family Day long weekend need to check the avalanche conditions before venturing out, safety experts warn.

Up to 20 centimetres of snow is forecasted in some areas, and Avalanche Canada expects the danger level to rise in parts of B.C. and some southern sections of the Rockies.

Avalanche protection consultant Chris Stethem says people need to be aware of potential issues anywhere.

« If there’s a significant snowfall, there’ll be a rapid rise in the risk, » he said.

Parks Canada visitor safety specialist Stephen Holeczi says the Banff area may not receive the heaviest snowfall in the mountains this weekend, but he adds that visitors should still stay sharp in avalanche terrain.

« I think if I was personally going up in the backcountry, I’m thinking about, when I get up into those higher elevations, I’m going to be looking for those new wind slab formations, because I think that’s probably what’s changing with the new snow that we’re about to receive here, » he said.

Officials also advise people to avoid avalanche terrain, especially if they don’t have avalanche safety gear and training.

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Two skiers escape Avalanche unscathed at Castle Mountain Resort – Lethbridge

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Two people escaped an in-bounds avalanche Friday morning at Castle Mountain Resort completely unscathed.

Officials with Castle Mountain Resort confirmed the avalanche took place on the Red Chair hill Friday morning, with snow fully burying one skier and partially covering another.


READ MORE:
Snowmobiler killed in avalanche in eastern British Columbia

Ski Patrols with Castle Mountain were sent to aid the skiers and were able to successfully rescue both, returning them to the bottom of the hill where EMS assessed them for injuries.

It was determined unnecessary to escort the skiers to hospital as neither sustained any injuries from the avalanche.


READ MORE:
Small N.L. town grieving after snowmobiler killed in avalanche

The Red Chair hill was temporarily closed, so crews could use explosives on the area to prevent further risk of avalanches. It was soon reopened for the public for use.

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Come for the Serenity, Stay for the Food: the Majestic Resort That Has It All Included

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Imagine for a moment that you’ve just set foot on a pristine vacation property. The sun is warm as you step outside to find a cerulean pool surrounded by lounge chairs and wide-brim straw umbrellas. Hammocks sway in rhythm with the palm trees. Cabana beds line the shore of powdery white sand where guests are sipping cocktails and sharing fresh tapas.

You pinch yourself. Is this paradise? You could call it that. Excellence Playa Mujeres, situated just 25 minutes north of Cancun, is an all-inclusive, adults-only luxury resort. It features seven swimming pools and a variety of spacious rooms and suites, including Swim-Up Suites, which boast a private terrace and direct access to the pool, or a Two-Story Rooftop Terrace Suite, which has its own plunge pool and breathtaking views over the resort. The main stage theater presents nightly entertainment, and sea kayaks, paddle boards, and snorkeling gear are sure to keep guests busy by day.

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And then there’s the food. There are 10 gourmet restaurants, a snack grill just steps from the ocean, and 11 premium-stocked bars with pool- and beach-side locations. No matter your culinary preference, there are premium options for everyone. From inventive Indian food at Basmati to fresh sashimi at Spice, decadent French cuisine at Chez Isabelle to modern Mexican at Agave, the dining options at Excellence Playa Mujeres offer international flavors by innovative chefs in a space that is, simply put, pristine. Oh, and 24-hour room service is included; you could tour the globe without leaving the property––or your suite.

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At Agave, take advantage of your location and relish the authentic Mexican dishes like Alambre, made of pork leg strips prepared with onions, poblano chili pepper, bacon, light beer, lemon juice, and Oaxaca cheese. Though Tex-Mex favorites like burritos and fajitas are just as memorable. Dine under the moonlight in an hacienda-style courtyard if you choose, where the sound of tableside mariachis will carry down along the shore.

There are multiple restaurants at which to dine al fresco, including Las Olas, where you can grab an easy bite by the beach, or The Grill, crafters of fine American cuisine. For a casual à la carte lunch, enjoy a freshly prepared salad, like the seared tuna salad tossed with arugula, green tomatoes, and coriander. For something more decadent (because who said lunch couldn’t be as opulent as dinner?), try a burger like the Oscar, a beef and crab burger with asparagus au gratin on buttered French-toasted brioche. Come dinner, enjoy these and more with a menu full of fresh fish, hearty steak, and unique pasta favorites like mushroom agnolotti in ham broth.

If your heart sings for seafood––you’ve come to the right place––don’t miss a meal at The Lobster House, situated in an open-air thatch-roof palapa that bridges the main pool. Unlike most all-inclusive resorts, Excellence Playa Mujeres offers lobster within its included benefits. Whether you prefer the lobster and jicama salad with orange vinaigrette and garden herbs, lobster risotto marinated with white wine and Parmesan cheese, or a traditional grilled or steamed lobster with your selection of sauce, this is an optimal destination for fresh fish and your favorite crustaceans.

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Excellence Playa Mujeres has a world-class team of chefs with experience throughout the Caribbean, but they also know their way around all types of cuisines, as evidenced by the global fare that delights guests throughout their stay.

At Toscana, be transported to Tuscany with dishes like tagliatelle with tomato, broccoli, capers, olives, lemon, and basil; saltimbocca; or salmon with grappa sauce and truffle oil, all made with fresh ingredients and artfully prepared to five-star standards. Try Barcelona for Spanish and Mediterranean fare featuring everything from gazpacho to paella, thoughtfully crafted tapas to indulgent lobster cannelloni. Or you might find yourself wandering Le Marais in Paris when you visit Chez Isabelle. From the escargot to the grilled beef medallions served with red wine, black pepper, and Bearnaise, this French bistro is proud to live up to its culinary heritage. The live music performed nightly further enhances the Parisian sensibility, as well as the romance.

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Crossing continents, Spice elevates Asian flavors from Japan, China, Vietnam, and Thailand with exotic favorites made fresh, like Thai green curry or nigiri. The elegant atmosphere is perfect for date night before or after a show at The Main Stage Theater. Coming in with a group of friends? Try the full Teppanyaki menu. Over at Basmati, it won’t be difficult to shift your focus to the delights of north-west Indian flavors when you smell the fragrant aroma of spices from the tandoor oven that fills the room. Here, chefs serve artful iterations of paneer, daal, and vindaloo dishes with a variety of rice and naan, too.

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For something a little smaller––maybe a glass of wine and tapas before dinner––stop into Flavor Market. The in-house sommelier can help create a memorable pairing that might have you stopping back in at the end of the night. And on the days you can’t stand to miss the big game, because vacation is the prime place to watch a championship series, head to Sports Bar to enjoy elevated pub favorites while you follow along on the big screen.

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No matter what flavors your taste buds prefer, which kind of cocktails you like best, or what mood you’re in, there is an option for every kind of food lover at Excellence Playa Mujeres. And the best part—it’s all included. From the moment you arrive, your most difficult decision will be whether to dine at the beach or the pool. But let’s be honest––you can do it all.

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Lake Louise ski resort wants fine reduced from $2M to $200,000 for chopping down endangered trees

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An Alberta ski resort has appealed a Calgary judge’s $2.1-million fine for cutting down endangered trees, arguing the sentence is « grossly disproportional and demonstrably unfit. »

The Lake Louise Ski Resort in Banff National Park has asked a higher court to either stay the charges or reduce the penalty to $200,000.

One year ago, the resort pleaded guilty to charges under the Species at Risk Act and Canada National Parks Act for cutting down a stand of trees, including 38 endangered whitebark pine, along a ski run in 2013.

Last month, provincial court Judge Heather Lamoureux imposed the fine that works out to about $55,000 per tree. The maximum fine is $300,000 per tree.

In a notice of appeal filed Friday, the resort argues the trial judge « made palpable and overriding errors of fact and findings in absence of evidence and in interpreting mitigating and aggravating factors erroneously. »

In her decision, Lamoureux said the resort had risked « undermining the survival of the species in the decades to come. »

But the appeal argues there are 200 million whitebark pines in Canada and that Lamoureux erred in her assessment of the risk of harm to the species.

The resort had previously argued that cutting down 38 trees would have « zero impact » on the overall whitebark pine population in Canada.

Dan Markham, the resort’s director of brand and communications, said after the sentencing decision that the resort has taken steps — like educating staff and marking the 7,000 whitebark pines on resort land — to ensure the endangered trees remain protected.

Before the guilty plea, defence lawyer Alain Hepner had made an application to have the charges tossed out because, he argued, the case had taken too long to get to trial. Lamoureux rejected the application — and that decision is also under appeal. The resort wants the charges to be stayed. In the event the charges are not stayed, Hepner will argue for the fine to be reduced.

In this 2011 photo, whitebark pine have succumbed to mountain pine beetles through the Gros Ventre area east of Jackson Hole, Wyo. (The Associated Press)

In 2013, seven employees were doing cleanup work on Ptarmigan Ridge at the ski resort. They were trimming and removing trees, including the endangered pines, which was done without a permit.

Following DNA analysis, the trees were confirmed to be whitebark pines and the case was handed over to Parks Canada investigators. 

Prosecutor Erin Eacott had proposed the $2.1-million fine, arguing a « significant deterrent » was needed to protect the species.

Invasive disease, fire and climate change threaten the whitebark pine. 

The whitebark pine is found at high elevations in western North America and helps stabilize steep subalpine slopes.

The trees have been growing on the continent for 100,000 years and some are hundreds of years old.

The appeal will be heard in March by a Court of Queen’s Bench judge in Calgary. 

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The weight of silence: Ryan Shtuka’s disappearance continues to haunt B.C. ski resort

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As Sun Peaks, B.C., prepares for another busy ski season, the mystery of Ryan Shtuka’s disappearance continues to haunt the Interior resort town.

Shtuka, 20, vanished one cold night in February after leaving a house party. Despite extensive searching in the months since, no clues have emerged as to his whereabouts.

While the investigation into Shtuka’s disappearance remains open, the lack of clues and a tight-lipped RCMP has sparked wild speculation and instilled lingering fears in the community of Sun Peaks, which lies around 60 kilometres northeast of Kamloops. 

Friends and family remember Shtuka as a friendly, likeable, easygoing person.

« He just seemed like a really good guy, really genuine and confident. … Everyone liked him up there. He never made any enemies, » said Madelyn Piggin, who worked with Shtuka at the Sun Peaks tube park.

« It’s just such an unreal thing to happen that I still think he’ll show up one day and he’ll be fine. »

Local newspaper publisher Brandi Schier said Shtuka’s disappearance has affected everyone in the area. 

« When it comes down to it, we are a small town, » Schier said. 

« I think everybody did get pretty emotionally involved, especially if you were a younger person and you knew Ryan. The fact that we haven’t been able to return Ryan home to his family has been incredibly painful for everybody up here. »

Signs and posters regarding missing person Ryan Shtuka are posted all over B.C. (Shelley Joyce/CBC)

Extensive search

Shtuka, a seasonal worker from Beaumont, Alta., left a house party at approximately 2 a.m. on Feb. 17, according to police. He hasn’t been seen since. 

In the days and weeks following his disappearance, hundreds of volunteers from Alberta and British Columbia, along with local search and rescue teams and the RCMP, searched the village and surrounding forests, trails and mountains, looking for something that might lead to more information about what happened that night.

The initial concern from friends and first responders was that Shtuka had fallen into a gully, which was covered by heavy snow later that weekend. But even as the snow melted into spring, no sign of him was found.

« When somebody goes missing, until there is a definite conclusion as to where the body is, then it’s an open investigation, » Kamloops RCMP Cpl. Jodi Shelkie said.

‘Vacuum of information’

Schier called the silence from the RCMP a « vacuum of information. »

« Misinformation has just been all over place, » she said.  « Tons of rumours. Spiritual mediums are getting involved. »

Jean Strong, editor of the local newspaper Sun Peaks Independent News, said she’s read several theories online about what happened to Shtuka.

« Abduction to sex trafficking, to being involved in [the] drug trade, to aliens, to animal attack, » she said. « Any other wild theory you can think of has come up online, I think. »

Shtuka, from Beaumont, Alta., was working as a lift operator at the Sun Peaks resort. (Submitted)

Beyond rumours and speculation, Shtuka’s disappearance has instilled an element of fear into the community, particularly among young seasonal workers, Strong says.

She said they can relate to Shtuka and don’t know whether or not his disappearance was an isolated occurrence. 

« I think in some ways that makes people worried, or anxious or afraid, » said Strong, who added that some people are too uncomfortable to walk home alone at night in the area where Shtuka was last seen.

Violent death?

Jim Reid, who was staying with friends near the house where Shtuka lived on the night the 20-year-old went missing, told CBC he heard an unusual interaction outside in the middle of that night.

« I heard a guy’s voice and it was mad, » Reid said.

He said the person he heard was yelling, « get in the car, get in the f–king car. »

Reid says he reported what he heard to police, but, after they called him back several times, he hasn’t heard anything since.

Those who believe Shutka’s life came to a violent end include retired RCMP investigator Bryan Smith, who travelled from Alberta to help with the search at the request of a Shtuka family friend.

Smith, a Mountie for 25 years who had investigated several missing persons cases, has also worked as a ski patroller and horseback guide and has experience with many backcountry searches.

His initial conclusion was that Shtuka had wandered into the deep snow and got lost in the rugged terrain around Sun Peaks. 

However, an interview with one of Shtuka’s friends changed his mind.

« The friend seemed to be very nervous and very afraid for himself, which was unusual to me, » said Smith, who would not reveal the friend’s name.

« My gut told me that this was most likely a homicide, not just a missing person. »

Smith said he shared his findings with the RCMP.

But after extensive interviews with everyone involved with Shtuka, police say they have no reason to believe foul play was involved.

« At this time there is no evidence that anything criminal happened, » Shelkie said, adding that RCMP do not believe people in the Sun Peaks area should be concerned about their safety. 

Ryan Shtuka’s mother, Heather Shtuka, helped search the trails around Sun Peaks Resort for months, hoping to find any sign of her missing son. (Shelley Joyce/CBC)

‘We want to believe that we’ll find him’

Above all, the silence has weighed heaviest on Shtuka’s family. 

His parents, Heather and Scott, rallied volunteers and spent four months searching Sun Peaks and the area around the town.

Heather Shtuka finds it improbable that her son met a violent end.

« He’s not confrontational, he’s not an instigator, he’s not one of those people that would go out of his way to start something, » she said

« He was great, funny, a loyal guy, sarcastic, and great with his friends. »

But they’re still no closer to finding an answer to what happened.

« We don’t know why Ryan went missing, we don’t know how he went missing, we don’t know where he went missing, » Heather Shtuka said.

« We want to believe that we’ll find him, that a parent’s love will be so strong. »

Daybreak’s Shelley Joyce set out on a mission to find out what happened to missing 20-year-old Ryan Shtuka, who was last seen leaving a house party at Sun Peaks. She spoke with people who have never talked to media before about what they believe happened that cold night in February, 2018. 26:26

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