Search for missing woman suspended

Also in news briefs: Spearhead Huts receive funding, buses return to Gateway Loop

RCMP have suspended the search for 25-year-old Alison Leanne Raspa who has been missing since Wednesday, Nov. 22.

Police say after an extensive two-week search, all leads have been exhausted. While the search will stop, the file will remain active and ongoing until she's found, they added in a release. 

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Following the discovery of a phone belonging to Raspa in Alpha Lake Park the morning after she was last seen in the Village, local RCMP and Whistler Search and Rescue thoroughly searched the area, while the RCMP’s Underwater Recovery Team scoured Alpha Lake.

Dive teams returned to the water on Sunday (Dec. 3) to search a different area of the lake, Hayes said. “That turned out negative as well.”

A helicopter was also deployed to aid in the search last week, though that flight was cut short due to poor weather.

Last week, a citizen also found a backpack and jacket in the same general area, and turned them into police. RCMP believe these items belong to Raspa, Hayes confirmed. “It was found in the area of Highway 99 and Lake Placid Road,” he said.

“The community has rallied. We have received lots of phone calls,” Hayes said, adding that he recently received a phone call from Australia, from a tourist who had been visiting Whistler around the time of Raspa’s disappearance. The tourist “thought she might have seen and heard some stuff, so we are getting tips from local and international… which has been awesome.”

A community-led search party also set off on Friday (Dec. 1), although the effort yielded a similarly frustrating lack of answers.
Raspa was last spotted leaving the Three Below Restaurant at approximately 11:30 p.m. on Nov. 22, wearing a black sweater, a white and black striped shirt, and black pants. She’s described as Caucasian, with long brown hair and blue eyes. The ongoing investigation has led police to believe foul play is not likely a factor in Raspa’s disappearance.

Anyone with information on her whereabouts is asked to contact Whistler RCMP at 604-932-3044.

Second Spearhead hut gets $1.5 million boost from Vancouver philanthropists

The Spearhead Huts Society (SHS) has secured the necessary funding to build the second backcountry hut planned for the traverse, the organization announced late last month.

A $1.5 million donation from Vancouver philanthropists and outdoor enthusiasts Brian Hill, CEO and founder of clothing retailer Aritzia, and Andrea Thomas Hill, chair of the Cause We Care Foundation, will cover the construction costs.

“We’ve been coming here to Whistler, one of our favourite places in the world, our whole lives,” said Brian Hill in a release. “When Spearhead Huts Society came to us with this idea, we wanted to support the project so that more people will be able experience the backcountry with a safe and new option in that spectacular environment.”

The good news comes following a milestone summer for the organization, after eight long years spent planning the West Coast’s first hut-to-hut system along the 40-kilometre alpine traverse. Crews broke ground on the first hut — located at Russet Lake — earlier this year, with construction on the hut scheduled to be complete by early 2019.

“We are extremely grateful to the Hills for their generosity,” said SHS board chair Jayson Faulkner. “Our volunteers have been working tirelessly on this project and the Hills’ commitment is a significant milestone in seeing our shared vision come to life.”

Upon completion, the project is expected to welcome up to 7,000 visitors a year. The second hut will be located at Mount Macbeth, with design on the structure set to begin in early 2018.

Bus traffic returning to Gateway Loop

Following a redesign of the site that began in 2014, bus service will return to Gateway Loop on Monday, Dec. 18.

With bus pickup and drop off resuming at the outer ring road at Gateway Loop, there will no longer be any bus parking, pick up or drop off in Day Lot 3 after this date.

To ensure orderly and efficient operation of the outer loop, a flag person and additional support from bylaw services will be on site, while work is underway to open the bus bays in the inner loop as soon as possible.

Ten commercial bus parking spots will remain available in Day Lot 4 from Dec. 15 to April 15, 2018, with the commercial bus parking rate set at $5 per hour to a maximum of $25 per day. Alternative free parking for buses is available along the west side of Mons Road, or in the third and fourth parking lots at Spruce Grove Park.

Taxi operations will remain at Sunshine Place, near the Whistler Conference Centre, at this time, while public parking in the Gateway Loop will not be available.

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