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Banff East Gate buildings see millions of visitors drive by, but there’s a story behind them

People lived there? A look inside the historic gate built in the 1930s.

Every year, about four million people visit Banff National Park — many driving through the East Gate.

But those buildings aren’t just for car traffic. They’ve served as homes and offices for Parks Canada employees since they were built in the 1930s.

Each building has its function and character.

“I kind of think of it as a portal from ordinary life into a special place,” said Steve Malins, the park’s cultural resource management advisor. “You knew that you had arrived somewhere when you came to the Banff Gate. It answered that relentless question from the back seat: Are we there yet? Yes, you have arrived.”

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Times at the national park are changing. Officials are looking forward and trying to decide how to best manage visitors and those arriving in cars. Decisions are being made about what is and isn’t sustainable in terms of tourism.

But while policies in the park may change, the three East Gate buildings won’t — they’re protected as federal heritage buildings.

How we use them might change,” said Banff visitor experience manager Daniella Rubeling. “At this time, you know, the hang tag and the system we use for national park entry isn’t changing, but that is where the agency is looking. Where does that go in the future and how does digital play a role in that?”

When the gates first opened, the highway they guard wasn’t yet twinned. Cars had to register to enter and sign out to leave. Now, a through lane and hang tags make for a quicker entry.

Rubeling says one thing has stayed consistent.

“The welcome — the ‘hello bonjour, welcome to Banff National Park’ — that hasn’t changed, and that is a big part of what makes these gates so special still today,” Rubeling said.

Getting to Banff National Park in its early days, when it was still known as Rocky Mountain Park, was a bumpy ride for vehicles on the unpaved Banff Coach Road. Cars were allowed only after 1911, when the federal government lifted a ban that was put in place in 1905.

In the first few years, motorists had to drive to the RCMP detachment to register and pay for the privilege of being in the park boundaries. But in 1916, a gate was established because the police found that with the growing popularity of cars, this task was interrupting other work.

This is when the East Gate first entered the picture, but in a different location: near Exshaw, on what is now Highway 1A.

Gatekeeper Annie Staple started the job in 1916 while her husband worked as a game warden for the park. In the beginning, she set herself up at a table by the side of the road, a tent behind her to keep out of the rain, said historian and writer Rob Alexander.

She didn’t have an official uniform. The navy blue number didn’t come until nearly a decade later, in 1925. So her roadside operation caught some off guard.

“If you’re suddenly stopped by someone on the side of the road and they ask you for money, it’s kind of like that. Seems a little dubious,” Alexander said. “The second driver that she charged went straight to the police and reported her.”

At that time, visitors to the park had to stop at the gate and register their name; vehicle’s make, model and colour; and their home address. On the way out, they had to confirm leaving the park by signing out. It cost $1 a day, Alexander said.

Just a year after she started, the second summer, things started taking shape . A wooden post structure went up to truly form a gate, along with a booth for Staple to sit in. Eventually, a house was also built so she could have her family close — even though they lived only a short jog away in Exshaw.

Unfortunately, her husband, Tom Staple, died in 1919 while Annie Staple was pregnant with their fourth child.

“Pretty remarkable that she was doing this, this job. And given its hours and its demands, I’m not quite sure how she managed it,” Alexander said.

In 1930, the National Parks Act came into play. It outlined just how the Rocky Mountains Park should be managed, enshrining ecological protection as a keystone. With the act came a revision to the park boundary. The East Gate was moved about 35 kilometres west.

Canmore’s coal mines, a cement plant and limestone operations — many familiar landmarks you hit on the Trans-Canada Highway before passing through Canmore to get to Banff — didn’t fit in, Alexander said.

“They didn’t like the look of the communities because it didn’t fit this idea of a tourist destination,” Alexander said. “They had a vision of what people wanted to see, and that’s not what they saw in Canmore and Exshaw.”

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Where Tech Talent Goes To Thrive

here is a worldwide shortage of digital skills. In a world increasingly reliant on technology, demand for technological skillsets is rising by as much as 50%. Meanwhile, nearly three-quarters of today’s workers don’t feel equipped to learn the digital skills needed by businesses.

The most acute shortage is in advanced skills like programming, especially for new technologies like AI and blockchain.

This demand gives skilled tech workers, entrepreneurs, and leaders the pick of where to base themselves. As cities and nations compete to attract tech talent, what makes these prized individuals choose one place over another?.

Initial Attraction
In a survey of ‘tech migrants’, Boston Consulting Group identified a mixture of short-, medium-, and long-term levers businesses and cities could use to attract talent.

The initial attraction is often brute economics: higher pay and lower taxes. That’s certainly what brings people to Dubai, says Vladimir Vrzhovski, Tech and Digital Lead at Mercer: “Dubai pays about 30% higher than most of the mature tech hubs around Europe and Asia.” It also has a lower cost of living, especially when its 0% income tax is taken into account.

Businesses operating in the city’s free zones – like the tech-focused Dubai Internet City (DIC) and Dubai International Finance Centre (DIFC) Innovation Hub – also benefit from 0% corporation tax. BCG credits the incentive with bringing big names like Amazon, Google, and Oracle to the emirate.

It is an echo of London’s rise to tech prominence, offering tax relief on tech investments via its Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS) to funnel the city’s vast pools of finance towards digital businesses.

The presence of blue-chip names affords another major draw for tech talent: opportunities.

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Adding exercise into treatment may reduce substance use, study shows

One key to fighting addiction may be exercise, according to a new study.

Researchers undertook a review of the existing literature around physical activity and its relationship to substance use, and they found that regular exercise was associated with lowered use in about 75% of the studies investigating that question, according to the analysis.

The review, published Wednesday in the journal PLOS ONE, looked at 43 studies with more than 3,000 total participants. In addition to a reduction or cessation in substance use, the studies also found improved markers of physical health and decreased depressive symptoms, the study said.

“People think that during treatment people should only do psychotherapeutic treatments … but that’s not what we’ve seen in our study,” said lead study author Florence Piché, a doctoral student and researcher at Université de Montréal in Canada. “It’s very beneficial to do physical activity in addition to the treatments.”

There are limitations to the findings. The review found that most of the studies the researchers examined had a high risk of bias, meaning more research is needed to confirm their findings, said Dr. Aaron Kandola, research fellow at Medical Research Council Unit for Lifelong Health and Ageing at University College London.

The studies were also not directly comparable enough to build a comprehensive and generalizable understanding of the relationship, Kandola said in an email. Kandola was not part of the research.

However, the findings were still significant and useful, he added.

“Substance use disorders are a major public health problem lacking low-cost, evidence-based solutions,” he said, adding that substance use disorders are worsening in many high-income countries — including the United States.

Finding more accessible solutions to this disorder is especially important because it often occurs with other mental health problems such as depression and anxiety, which disproportionately affect people with fewer socioeconomic resources and areas with higher deprivation, he said.

Physical activity may be a useful and accessible part of a treatment plan for substance use disorder, said Dr. Mark Smith, professor of psychology at Davidson College in North Carolina. Smith was not part of the research.

“I think there’s now a sufficient amount of data to indicate that various forms of physical activity and exercise are generally effective at reducing substance use in individuals seeking treatment,” he said.

What exercise does
Most people can benefit from engaging in physical activity, Kandola said.

One benefit the studies found is improvements in physical health such as cardiovascular endurance or muscle strength, Smith said. And although that may not be the primary goal of the research, he said this finding is important because it shows the physical activity is doing its job to promote physical health.

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Blood sugar drug tirzepatide also leads to substantial weight loss in diabetes patients, Eli Lilly says

There’s more evidence that the injectable drug tirzepatide helps people with diabetes lose weight as well as control their blood sugar, according to the drug’s manufacturer, Eli Lilly and Company.

In a new study, more than 900 adults with obesity and diabetes took the drug for a year and five months, and those on the highest dose lost an average of 34 pounds, or nearly 16% of their starting weight. It also helped people reduce their blood sugar, the company said in a news release. The data has not yet been peer-reviewed or published in a medical journal.

“We have not hit 15% in any other phase three trial for weight management in this type two diabetes population,” said Dr. Nadia Ahmad, an associate vice president at Eli Lilly and medical director of obesity clinical development for the company.

Ahmad said the company was pleased with these results, given how hard it is for people with type 2 diabetes to lose weight.

Tirzepatide is currently sold as Mounjaro and approved to help people with type 2 diabetes control their blood sugar.

Lilly says it will use the new study, along with results from an earlier study of weight loss in people without diabetes, to ask the US Food and Drug Administration to fast-track approval for tirzepatide purely for weight loss, which would make it a direct competitor to the blockbuster obesity drug Wegovy.

Plenty of people aren’t waiting for the FDA’s nod.

“I am aware of and I’ve heard, you know, it being sort of used off label for weight loss and individuals who do not have diabetes,” said Dr. Kimberly Gudzune, medical director of the American Board of Obesity Medicine. Gudzune was not involved in the tirzepatide study.

Gudzune points out that once a drug is FDA approved it can be prescribed for any reason a doctor sees as medically necessary.

Tirzepatide, along with several similar types of drugs taken for diabetes, went into shortage last year as success stories posted on social media fueled runaway demand for their weight loss benefits. The shortages made the medications difficult for patients with diabetes to get.

Tirzepatide works by mimicking the action of two different gut hormones. When blood sugar rises after eating, the drug stimulates the body to produce more insulin, which lowers blood sugar. It also slows down the movement of food from the stomach, making people feel fuller for longer. In clinical trials, people who took tirzepatide experienced more nausea, vomiting and diarrhea compared with those who took a placebo injection.

Semaglutide, manufactured by Novo Nordisk, has also been approved as a weight loss medication for overweight adults with at least one associated health problem since 2021. When prescribed for weight loss, it is sold under the brand name Wegovy. When prescribed for diabetes, the injection is sold under the brand name Ozempic.

High demand, coupled with manufacturing problems, threw Wegovy into shortage for much of the last year. That shortage then rippled into shortages for diabetes patients as doctors began prescribing other diabetes medications off-label for weight loss.

There has already been a lot of buzz about tirzepatide’s potential as an obesity medication. In a clinical trial published in the New England Journal of Medicine last year, people who were overweight or obese, but did not have diabetes, lost an average of 52 pounds on the highest dose of the drug, or more than 20% of their starting weight.

“In the last year has been really exciting just to have more tools in the toolbox, so to speak. And tools that, you know, we’re seeing really achieving outcomes that patients for the longest time have been hoping to achieve,” Gudzune said.

If those results hold up in the real world, that would make it the most potent of the injectable weight loss medications.

Indeed, this week Lilly aims to begin a study that will test Mounjaro against Wegovy head-to-head in 700 participants at 61 sites in the United States and Canada, according to The study will conclude in February 2025.

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