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VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - A skier died while she and her husband spent more than a week lost in Canada's Rocky Mountains as their distress signals twice failed to prompt searches, police said on Wednesday.
The couple, visiting from Quebec, apparently skied into an out-of-bounds area on February 15, at a mountain resort near Golden, British Columbia, then got lost. No one realized they were missing.
They were not dressed for backcountry skiing in bitter winter conditions, police said. They carried no water and had only two granola bars for food, forcing them to eat leaves in an attempt to survive.
A helicopter spotted an SOS distress symbol carved into the snow two days later, but authorities did not launch a ground search after checking with the resort and other area businesses and finding no indication that anyone was missing.
The couple had spent the night at the Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, but had checked out of their hotel rooms before going to the mountain to ski.
The SOS was also spotted by a pilot on February 21, but again no search was launched because authorities thought the incident had already been investigated.
The skiers were finally located on Tuesday when a pilot saw the man waving from the ground. The woman was already dead when rescuers reached the scene, apparently from exposure.
"It's just terrible," said Corporal Annie Linteau, of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
The man is now in hospital recovering from frostbite.
The couple had been reported missing to police in Montreal on Monday, when they failed to return home from what was thought to have been a ski trip to the resort town of Banff, Alberta, located about 140 km (90 miles) east of Golden.
Word of Montreal's missing persons report did not reach police in Golden until after the couple had already been located, Linteau said.
Reporting Allan Dowd, editing by Rob Wilson