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Heli-Skiing in the Tantalus? #1138
Back To Discussion List Written: 2004.03.21 by: Andrew Wong

Splashed on the March 20, 2004 front page of the Vancouver Sun's travel section is a spectacular photo of a snowboarder headed down off a ridge on the Tantalus Range. The article's author spent a few days skiing in the area around the Red Tit Hut after being dropped off there by helicopter. While not heli-skiing per se, this sounds pretty darned close to it.

I'm not a huge purist and will personally never step foot on such hallowed grounds, but I do understand the desire and importance for an alpine experience without buzzing snowmobiles or whirring helicopters. Especially in provincial parks. (Even if mountaineers don't venture up there this time of year, as implied by the article. The article also hinted that the Tantalus may see even more helicoptered recreationists in the future, as Transworld Snowboarding Magazine was shooting in the area.)

So, with various companies holding air use permits for the park, can we avoid a future conflict between climbers/ski-mountaineers and the backcountry ski/board communities?


#286 - 2004.04.11 Frank W. Baumann - Heli Skiing in Provincial Parks
I am not aware that any company has a heli-ski tenure in the Tantalus Range; the closest would be a company associated with Black Tusk Helicopters in Squamish, who have applied to heli-ski in the Ashlu-Elaho divide area.

So anybody that has flown into the Tantalus Range has done so on their own, probably on a one shot deal.

The worst heli-skiing vs non-mechanized touring conflict is in the Spearhead Range in Garibaldi Park, where Whistler-Heli-Skiing has a tenure to operate in the Phalanx, Spearhead, Decker, Trorey, Tremor, etc. glacier area. This directly conflicts with ski mountaineers doing the beautiful Spearhead Traverse.

In my opinion, this tenure should never have been allowed (it was apparently opposed by a majority of people who responded to the original application, but their concerns were overruled by the Provincial Government of the day).

The tenure comes up for renewal in 2009 I believe; hopefully, at that time, there will be a more effective lobby to remove heli-skiing from one of the most beautiful and frequented areas of Garibaldi Park.

#278 - 2004.03.23 chris christie - Strange how this topic comes to light.
When those folks chose to carry ski's/snowboards rather than a rack. I see this use strictly as access. They still earned their turns. Heli drop sched sounds like a good idea to me.

#277 - 2004.03.23 Paul Kubik - Red Tit
It definitely is not in the park. The Park Management Plan (November 2001) page 45 states, "there is a small mountaineering shelter, the Red Tit hut, located outside the park..". The park boundary excludes pretty well all the west side of the range. There is a zone of mineralization along the west of the range which may be exploitable. I think this is the overriding reason this area was never included in the park.

Also, Blair Mitten (on behalf of the hut replacement committee) applied to the BC Forest Service for the permit to build the new hut. Parks has nothing to do with it, really. The new facility will be heavily used by the heli-everything crowd, who will incidently employ alpine guides from the Squamish area.

Aircraft use of the Lake Lovely Water area will likely be recognized in the park master plan, which I don't think has been released yet. For those seeking solitude, the northern section of the park (Ossa, Pelion and Sigurd) will have a different zoning that will exclude commercial aircraft use. Or so I was led to understand. You can never trust government.

#276 - 2004.03.23 Drew Brayshaw - Red tit Hut
The Parks photo gallery webpage for Tantalus Provincial Park includes Red Tit Hut prominently.

Paul, are you thinking of the old Park boundaries (just around LLW) or are you saying that the current boundaries bypass Red Tit? It's hard to tell from the map available.

#275 - 2004.03.23 Paul Kubik - Red tit isn't in the park
The existing hut is not in the park. I don't think its proposed replacement (Jim Haberl hut) is either. Park regulations don't apply.

#274 - 2004.03.23 Mike Peel - Park Management Plan doesn't allow Heli-skiing
If I recall from the work Monica Bittel, Liz Scremin and Peter Woodsworth and others did on behalf of the FMCBC, ACC and BCMC, the completed Tantalus Park management plan for Tantalus has the area zoned non-motorized recreation with limited flights allowed for access into and out of this area.

To answer Jordan's comments: The Park Management plan governs what type of activity can occur in the Park. The motorized recreation/hunting or hydro development activities will only happen in Parks where we don't provide our input (not meaning to sound altruistic , but it's just a way of saying that if we don't get involved then nothing will reflect our views).

#273 - 2004.03.22 Jordan Peters - Society's Sinking Ship
Not to be pessimistic here, but the age of heli-skiing tenures in BC Parks is not far off as I see it. There are two sad realities that we must face here: 1. BC Parks is in no position to police heli usage in Parks (nor do they have a mandate to do so). There are currently six winter rangers in BC at the moment and the time when heli use in Parks was even fowned upon, nevermind illegal, seems gone. 2. In the minds of Joe and Jane public, the "pristineness" of the wild land is becoming less of an issue. Robin speaks of the need to "recognize the difference between motorized access to an area versus a motorized activity such as heli-skiing, heli-hiking, or snowmobiling", an issue foremost on all of our minds in the backcountry, I am sure. But in the minds of the government and the majority of the public, the ideological boundaries of wilderness in SWBC are evaporating. Relatively "higher-order notions" of preservation have been usurped by the unquenchable desire to be entertained, and this is reflected in government policy. Ask someone who doesn't use the backcountry like we do if they have a problem with heliskiing in BC Parks -- I suspect most wouldn't give a damn. Feel free to call me a defeatist, but I unfortunately don't think we can do much about this.

#272 - 2004.03.22 Wilf LeBlanc - access vs other use
In the article, the helicopter was used strictly for access, which is the same as mountaineering in the summer. However, there is an unclear distinction between heli-skiing (personal chairlift) vs heli-access for ski mountaineering. At some point you enter a very grey area. For example, I am dropped off at the top of peak XYZ, then ski down. The weather gets ugly, so I hang out for 3 days before the helicopter returns. Was this heli-access or not ?

#271 - 2004.03.22 Drew Brayshaw - Jim Haberl Hut
The ACC is planning to update the Red Tit Hut and turn it into the Jim Haberl Memorial Hut (or was the last I heard). It seems to me that this is a hut that will primarily be built by, used by, and based around helicopter access. Rather like Plummer Hut in the Waddington Range.

From what I saw flipping through the article in the coffee shop the ski party got dropped off by helicopter and spent several days skiing around. I don't think this is any different from a) getting flown in to do some mountaineering in the summer (which like I said, is mostly how parties climb Tantalus anyway these days) or b) getting flown in to a different hut, like the Pebble Creek hut. I don't really think it can be called heli-skiing which seems like more using a helicopter as your personal chairlift.

#270 - 2004.03.22 Wilf LeBlanc - Same thing
I fail to see the difference between heli access to Red Tit for climbing versus heli access to Red Tit for skiing/ snowboarding. I'm not sure if this distinction is trying to be made, but it is a tenuous one. Heli-skiing is arguably access. The point is not to fly around in a helicopter for fun, the point is to descend. (This is a clear distinction vs snowmobiles).

The Tantalus hut is a 2-4 hour hike. Red Tit is maybe 6-8. Motorized vehicles should be banned. That is as clear a distinction as there can possibly be.

#269 - 2004.03.22 Robin Tivy - Distinction needed between "access" and motorized ascent
The "exact" thing that mountaineers want to protect against in this case is the loss of peace and quiet in the wilderness. Therefore I think the helicopter access should be restricted. Most people recognize the difference between motorized access to an area versus a motorized activity such as heli-skiing, heli-hiking, or snowmobiling. Of course, there are people who like to argue that no distinction can be made; such as the flat earth society.

However, assuming you see a difference, you can say that in one case the helicopter is being used similar to an automobile, whereas in the other case, it is substituting the helicopter for the actual effort of climbing.

One way to regulate the mis-use of helicopters is to only allow specified landing times within the park. This was or is the way the helicopter access is limited to the cabins at Assiniboine. There are only certain times that dropoffs can be made.

#268 - 2004.03.22 Drew Brayshaw - Heli Access
The thing is, probably 90% of the summer mountaineers in the Tantalus Range, in the Red Tit Hut area, fly in too. Who are we going to be protecting what against exactly?