Salmon Arm’s Victoria Skofteby was at Sun Peaks Resort the day Ryan Shtuka went missing.
She was attending a wedding there that Saturday so the weather was on everyone’s minds. It was to be an outdoor wedding and the temperature was hovering around -18 C. They woke up to snow that morning.
The outdoor wedding went ahead as planned and it wasn’t until Monday that Skofteby learned of Ryan’s disappearance.
The 20-year-old had moved to Sun Peaks from Beaumont, Alta. on Dec. 1 to work at the ski hill and pursue his love of snowboarding. He left a small get-together at a residence on Burfield Drive just below the ski hill at 2:10 a.m. that Saturday, Feb. 17, heading to his home about a 10- to 15-minute walk away. He has not been seen since.
Skofteby contacted Heather Shtuka, Ryan’s mom, to provide information about the weather and has been in touch the last while. The family was seeking volunteers, dogs and snowshoes to help with the search so, on Monday, March 6, Skofteby headed to the resort with her black lab Stella.
“I’m the type of person who loves to help,” she says.
Stella, who sniffs constantly, would find spots where volunteers with shovels would come and dig, or a backhoe would dig, or she and Stella would search an area where the backhoe had just dug. Many volunteers were there using poles to poke in the snow.
Ryan’s dad Scott was digging around the house where Ryan lives, she says.
“There’s a lot of snow– it’s so deep up there, there’s so much.”
A command centre is set up in Hearthstone Lodge where volunteers sign in.
Ryan’s mom stays there from morning until night, Skofteby says.
“It was very emotionally hard, seeing the two parents in pain. I’m very sensitive to people and pain and that’s why I wanted to help,” she says. Skofteby’s emotions were also tinged with fear of discovering a body, at the same time as wanting to help the family find closure.
Ryan’s mom Heather told the Salmon Arm Observer that Wednesday through Friday, the Alberta chapter of the Canadian Search and Disaster Dogs Association will be on site with their search dogs. No one else will be searching so the dogs can focus.
“We will be regrouping on Friday depending on what is found and coming up with a plan starting Saturday,” Heather says.
She suggests that people wanting to help should watch the Missing: Ryan Shtuka Facebook site.
If more volunteers are needed to continue searching come Saturday, it will be posted there.
Heather says Kamloops Search and Rescue have come up twice but won’t be back unless tips point to a change of location or the environment changes.
People have been overwhelmingly supportive, she says. Not only the family’s Alberta community and hometown of Beaumont, but the community of Kamloops and Sun Peaks Resort.
Heather describes Ryan as a “perfectly imperfect” person with lots of wonderful qualities who was loved by friends and family. He was at Sun Peaks so he could board a lot and work at a ski resort for a season.
She says she and her husband Scott filmed the walk from the residence Ryan was visiting to his home.
“It took us about 18 minutes. If he was walking, it would have taken him 10 to 15 minutes on the path side.”
He could have gone right or left or, more unlikely, behind the building.
She says he would have consumed some alcohol that night.
“He’s 20 years old, in a ski resort, surrounded by a group of people here for like-minded reasons. They’d gone to an event at a bar… It’s safe to say he did consume alcohol.”
Heather says there’s no reason to think he’s not in the area. He has never missed work; it would be completely out of character for him to do so. And he would never leave without getting in touch with his family.
“Given the environment and the terrain up here, nothing suggests he’s left this area.”
Ryan’s 12-year-old sister Julianna has been with her parents at Sun Peaks and 17-year-old Jordyn was to arrive Wednesday night.
At this time Heather says the family is taking things moment by moment. “Some moments are better than others.”
They’re between feeling hope and feeling grief, but can’t claim either one completely.
“It’s good to be surrounded by friends and family who give us strength when we don’t have enough to go on. We just want to thank the communities for their support and their continuation of prayers.”
How long will they search?
“Scott and I will stay until the last bit of snow has left. At this point in time we will put our lives on hold if only for a little bit to focus on Ryan and to make sure he can come home with us. We will wait until there is a 100 per cent sign that he is not here at Sun Peaks and then we can go home. We won’t leave until he comes with us.”