Ski trip turns tragic for lost couple

The Canadian Press ~ The News
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GOLDEN, B.C. - A Quebec couple lost for nine days in British Columbia's back country in the dead of winter spelled out SOS in the snow before the man eventually waved down a helicopter flying overhead.
But their ordeal ended with both an incredible tale of survival and a tragedy, after the woman died before rescue came.
RCMP said Wednesday the couple went missing while skiing out of bounds in the Rockies in southeastern B.C. on Feb. 15.
Temperatures in Golden, the nearest community to the ski resort, ranged from a high of 5C one day to a low of -18C overnight.
Const. Annie Linteau said the man's survival is incredible.
"They only had in their possession two granola bars. No water. Apparently they may have had access to a creek that was nearby, and of course the snow in the area. It appears he may have eaten some foliage."
The 51-year-old man was in the hospital in Golden, B.C., recovering from frostbite and other symptoms of exposure. An autopsy will be conducted on his 44-year-old wife Friday.
Linteau said the couple, from the Montreal suburb of Lasalle, were on a ski holiday when they decided to hit the slopes at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort.
They failed to return but police didn't know the couple was missing until the day
before they were found, although there were indications long before then that someone was in trouble.
Two days after the couple was lost in the out-of-bounds area, on Feb. 17, an off-duty ski guide who was ski touring in the area spotted an SOS sign in the snow and some tracks.
The ski guide reported the strange sighting to his employer, Purcell Helicopter Skiing, which reported it to the resort. The resort, in turn, told local search and rescue officials.
The resort and rescue officials checked unreturned rental skis, missing persons reports and any vehicles that may have been left in the parking lot overnight.
"Kicking Horse Mountain Resort also informed night-time snow grooming operators and security personnel to watch for any backcountry skiers entering the ski area. There were no results of this search producing any evidence of potentially missing persons," the resort said in a statement.
No ground search was launched.
The resort said its sympathies go out to the family and friends of those involved.
On Feb. 21 the same group of skiers saw two more SOS symbols, and again notified Purcell, which this time reported it to RCMP at the nearby Golden detachment.
Linteau said police contacted the local search and rescue operation and were told the sighting had already been investigated.
"The SOS symbol appeared to be not fresh and they did not start a search," Linteau said.
Purcell said a fourth SOS sign was spotted by a heli-skiing tour on Feb. 24.
"While circling the area to get a GPS co-ordinate one person was noticed waving his arms," the company said in a statement. "The helicopter was not able to land, so immediately reported the GPS co-ordinates and sighting to the base, who in turn notified the Golden RCMP and requested search and rescue response."
Rescuers found the man alive but it was too late for his wife.

Organizations: RCMP, Horse Mountain Resort

Geographic location: Golden, Quebec, British Columbia Rockies Southeastern B.C. Montreal Lasalle

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