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Heli-skiing application for Waddington Range #1790
Back To Discussion List Written: 2007.02.23 by: Glenn Woodsworth

A company by the name of Knight Inlet Heli Sports (http://www.knightsinletheliskiing.com/) is applying for heli-skiing tenure in the entire Mt Waddington area, and also the Klinaklini/Silverthrone and Whitemantle areas, if I read the maps correctly. They will be based on of a luxury yacht at the head of Knight Inlet.

Letters are needed to express your views on this. A quick e-mail is all that is needed. John Baldwin's letter (below) outlines some of the you might want to address in your letter.

Comments should go to Diane Tetarenko,

Manager, Adventure Tourism
  Ministry of Tourism, Sport and the Arts

Suite 142 - 2080A Labieux Road Nanaimo, BC V9T 6J9 Phone: (250) 751-7241 Cell: (250) 713-7559 Fax: (250) 751-7224

Email: Diane.Tetarenko@gov.bc.ca

____________

Here is the text of John Baldwin's letter:

I am writing regarding the application by Knight Inlet Helisports (KIH) for tenure in the Waddington and Knight Inlet areas of the Coast Mountains.

I am writing as a ski mountaineer who has been skiing in the tenure area for 24 years, including 8 ski expeditions each of 3 weeks duration. I am also the author of the only guidebook to ski mountaineering in the Coast Mountains, "Exploring the Coast Mountains on Skis" (see john_baldwin.bivouac.com). Though I write here as an individual I think it is safe to say that my views are representative of the more than 15,000 ski mountaineers in the province.

Without a doubt the Waddington Range is the most superlative area for ski mountaineering in this province. Aside from the absolutely stunning scenery and terrain for ski mountaineering it is the wilderness aspect of this area that is literally world class. Ski mountaineers come not only from all parts of BC and western Canada but also from all around the world to experience what up to now only exits in BC. World class mountain scenery and skiing in a wilderness setting. There are very few areas left in the world that offer this combination. Most ski mountaineers who visit the area use some kind of air support (most often Whitesaddle Air) but once in the area it is the non-mechanized self-propelled activities that maintain the wilderness character of the area. I think it is fair to say that any intrusion of heli skiing into the Waddington Range would completely alter the wilderness character of the area and be unacceptable to the ski mountaineering community. The area has been used by ski mountaineers for over 95 years.

At the same time I recognize the necessity of heli skiing to local communities and the economy. I feel this can easily be met without sacrificing the wilderness character of the Waddington Range. There need to be some areas where heli-skiing is not permitted. This point was made in the establishment of a heli-skiing tenure in the Pantheon Range where a compromise was made to accept heli-skiing there while strongly rejecting any proposals for the Waddington Range. I would also point out that the current eco-tourism offered by ski mountaineers does already contribute to the local economies in its own way and this should not be ignored.

To prevent repeated threats to the wilderness character of the Waddington Range I feel strongly that it should designated as a non-motorized zone.


Comments

#861 - 2007.06.05 Sandra McGuinness - Decision made, tenure granted with some restrictions
This came out from the FMCBC:

Subject: FW: 1412758 Decision on Knight Inlet Helisport Crown land Application for Heli skiing in the Knights Inlet area

Good morning,

A decision has been made regarding the Crown land application for multi use (primarily heliskiing) by Knights Inlet Helisport Ltd.

I wanted to thank you for your comments provided regarding this application. Your comments, as well as all the other responses received from the public and other commercial operators were considered during the adjudication of this file.

A decision was made to issue Crown land tenure for the 4 (modified) zones requested in the application. However, utilization of Zone 2, Mt. Waddington is not authorized unless written permission is provided by Ministry of Tourism, Sport and the Arts (MTSA). MTSA ascertained that further time and effort was required in order to fairly assess the public and commercial use in the area and ascertain if shared use of the area is feasible, while still ensuring public safety and the environmental experience.

Therefore, in order for MTSA to fairly assess these values, Knights Inlet Helisport Ltd. is required to organize and participate in discussions with key stakeholder user groups of the Mt. Waddington area with a goal to develop a sustainable and collaborative working agreement between the stakeholders. MTSA will facilitate these discussions if required.

MTSA will review any agreement reached prior to September 1, 2009, and make a decision on the future use of the Mt. Waddington area.

Once again, I appreciate all your comments and suggestions during the adjudication this file, and I encourage you all to actively and openly participate in these discussions with Knights Inlet Helisport Ltd.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me directly at 250 751-7241.

Diane Tetarenko
 Regional Manager, Vancouver Island
 Adventure Tourism Team
 Ministry of Tourism, Sport and the Arts
 Suite 142 - 2080A Labieux Road
 Nanaimo, BC V9T 6J9

(250) 751-7241 - my office
 (250) 751-7220 - reception
 (250) 751-7224 - fax
 (250) 713-7559 - cell

#832 - 2007.03.20 Robin Tivy - Letter from Dana Foster, Ski Guide to Diane Tetarenko
Dear Diane Tetarenko,

I am writing in response to the application by Knight Inlet Heli-Sports to acquire a large commercial helicopter skiing tenure in the Mt.Waddington area of British Columbia. I fully oppose the approval of this tenure application.

I am a certified assistant ski guide and have worked several seasons as a helicopter ski guide in the interior of British Columbia and have visited the Waddington area while working for the Alpine Club of Canada on a ski mountaineering trip. There are many issues that are currently being debated in regard to the proliferation of massive new helicopter skiing tenures being granted through out British Columbia. Some of the largest new tenures are occurring in the coastal ranges of BC.

Issue #1- is regarding the effect of rotary aircraft on wildlife populations particularly mountain goats, mountain caribou, grizzly bears and wolverines. As a past heli-ski guide I have seen first hand the flight response of Mountain Goats and Wolverines, and it's very disturbing. I have also been an employee in a situation where our helicopter obviously disturbed a group of Mountain Caribou in the Adamant Range of the Selkirk Mountains near Revelstoke. Some of the responses exhibited in these animals are extreme duress, panic, sudden defecation (mountain goats) and obvious distress. These are some of the reasons I quit this type of mechanized guiding. There is no determinable way to adequately detect the presence of some of these animals before it's too late and they under go a severe distress response. Studies in Alaska, have shown that in Mountain Goats and Mountain Sheep their populations were adversely impacted by the presence of rotary aircraft, particularly birth and natality success rates. Helicat Canada, has made recommendations to the BC Provincial government that allows them certain vertical and horizontal separation distances that operators must adhere to from known individual animals or groups. However, these guidelines are useless in interminable weather with poor visibility, near ridgelines and forested areas. It is also a huge logistical and financial burden to move heli-ski groups to other areas when they observe these animals in their operating areas. The guidelines set forth in the commercial backcountry wildlife guidelines at present are completely in-adequate and do not reflect reality in mountain flying, mountain weather and the cost efficiency of a heli-ski program. Grizzly bears are also extremely vulnerable to the persistent presence of rotary aircraft and some areas in Alaska have been closed to commercial helicopter skiing. In some cases companies have had to relinquish their tenures or trade to other areas.

Issue#2 - In the past five years there has been a massive increase in huge commercial heli-ski tenures which have not had adequate consultation with existing stakeholders, user groups, communities and first nations. In some cases a new tenure can produce serious conflicts with existing user groups such as in the Whistler/Pemberton/Lilloet region. One of the serious issues that will arise out of having heli-skiing in the Waddington area is the use of the same resource by two different user groups. The Waddington area probably receives some of the most lengthy adverse weather anywhere in British Columbia and it is not until spring that there are larger windows of good weather. What happens then is that the heli-ski groups and the existing users will be competing for the same safe slopes, and since helicopters can fly faster the non-motorized skier will end up getting pushed into more unsafe terrain or not have any quality snow and terrain for their objectives. This has been the case in the Valemount/Blue River area between non-commercial users and commercial operators Mike Wiegele and Canadian Mountain Holidays. Eventually, the commercial tenure holder applies more and more pressure to limit the level of public recreation use or they make efforts to lobby for restricted access for competing users. This is the case with the Valemount/Blue River SRMP. In the end what ultimately results is legislation such as controlled backcountry areas (CRA's) and section 58 of the Forests and Range Practices Act, that create huge privatized backcountry domains for industrial heli-ski companies and the affluent ski elite.

Lastly, in regard to the economics of large heli-ski tenures I just haven't seen the numbers justify them. The current rate charged to industrial helicopter ski companies is $6.00/person/day to the government. In addition, with all the new industrial heli-ski tenures coming online, the market share for existing companies is getting spaghetti thin. In most cases the guests of these companies stay in all inclusive lodges and there is very little benefit to the small communities and local business'. The Mountain Equipment Co-Op is a large retailer of goods that supports self-propelled recreation. In their financial report from 2005 they did just under $200,000,000.00 in sales. Yes, two hundred million dollars and that is only one retailer. There have been additional studies that indicate that there is a greater economic contribution to communities and the tax pot when an area has a variety of small scale diverse commercial and non-commercial industry. The Pantheon Range just north of Mount Waddington is already tenured to an industrial helicopter skiing company as are most of the coastal mountains up to Bella Coola and south to Squamish. This is the last vestige of desirable mountain terrain not covered by industrial heli-skiing! Mount Waddington is the highest peak in the coastal mountains, it has a rich history of skiing and mountaineering and is heavily visited by skiers and mountaineers from around the world. I would like to see the area designated as a National Park, as it certainly is a feature of national significance and is still an un-desecrated wilderness area.

Sincerely,

Dana Foster

#830 - 2007.03.09 Robin Tivy - Letter from Christoph Dietzfelbinger, Lodge Operator
(Editor's Note: Christoph has been a steady supporter of Bivouac.com for many years, and operates a high quality ski touring lodge near Howson Peak.

Dear Ms Tetarenko,

it has come to my attention that you are entertaining an application to tenure the Mount Waddington range in the context of a heli-ski tenure application. Please allow me to comment as a tenured tourism operator with many years of experience in both heli-skiing and ski mountaineering.

Outside the densely tenured areas in the southeast of the province, larger and larger tenure areas were applied for and granted over the last ten years, sometimes under questionable circumstances. This has led to large land areas being tied up, thus preventing smaller local operators from establishing themselves. Many of the vast tenures are not being utilized in anything approaching a rational fashion, but I know of no instance where a non-utilized tenure was taken back or reduced, even though both law and policy allow and encourage that action. The present application falls into that category: It is far larger than necessary to accommodate the number of guests that could be expected with even the most optimistic forecasts. Please keep in mind that the highly successful operations of Canadian Mountain Holidays ski forty guests on tenures that average 2,000 to 3,000 square km. Here we have a far larger area with far fewer guests. There is no business case outside securing title to be made for granting such a large area. The government should not be in the business of giving away land for speculative purposes, but it should allocate resources in a way that allows both tourism businesses and the recreating public to achieve their goals.

Heli-skiing utilizes land in a particular fashion. It does not need the vast expanses of icefields in the Coast Mountains, but rather the steeper valleys and side valleys at lower elevations. This is where the desirable 25 to 35 degree inclined terrain is to be found that allows the best skiing, and this is also where the tree skiing is. About 70% of heli-skiing happens in the trees. The high alpine areas cannot be flown reliably enough to base a business on them. It may be prestigious to have tenure over the Waddington Range, but it is certainly not necessary to build a successful heli-ski operation.

Please allow me to suggest to define the tenure area more accurately. By all means grant tenure to the lower valleys that contain the best heli-skiing terrain, but exclude the high icefields and their ranges where heli-skiing is marginal, but where both non-motorized guiding operations and non-motorized public recreationists go. This would accommodate both interests.

I'm sure that other people have pointed out the importance of the Waddington Range for non-motorized skiing and mountaineering. Please be aware that this area is significant world wide, far beyond British Columbia. I have been fortunate enough to climb and guide in many alpine areas on several continents and can assure you that the Waddington Range stands with places like Ushba in Caucasus, Montblanc in the Alps, Mt Everest in the Himalayas and Denali in Alaska. Nobody would consider granting tenure over such areas that is, by its nature, exclusive of other uses. In the context of long term land use planning, to maintain the viability of the region both for commercial heli-skiing interests, commercial non-motorized interests, and non-motorized public recreation, I strongly recommend that the Waddington Range be designated non-motorized and excluded from this tenure, but allowing motorized access and egress.

Please be so kind as to acknowledge receipt of this message. Thank you for your consideration.

Yours sincerely,

-- Christoph Dietzfelbinger, M.A. Mountain Guide IFMGA, Bear Mountaineering and Burnie Glacier Chalet Box 4222 Smithers, B.C. V0J 2N0 Canada tel. 250-847-3351 fax: 250-847-2854 info@bearmountaineering.ca www.bearmountaineering.ca

#829 - 2007.03.09 Robin Tivy - Increased Helicopter Ski-ing Not In Keeping with Policies of Government
I have sent the following letter to Diane.Tetarenko@gov.bc.ca, the Manager of Adventure tourism, and asked for a reply.

Hello Dianne, The vast majority of our members are opposed to the granting of helicopter skiing tenures in the Waddington Range.

1. It may well be possible that there is more economic benifit in the present use of the Waddington area, since a larger number of unmechanized users can enjoy a given area than a small number of users making a lot of noise, and dominating the area. Domination of areas by machine users is already becoming a problem in other parks such as Grouse mountain, and Garibaldi park, with the continous sight seeing flights.

2. There is not a very high economic "multiplier" for helicopter skiing activity, since most of the money immediately leaves the province without generating downstream economic activity. Neither the fuel nor the helicopters themselves are produced in BC.

3. It is hard to see how increased Helicopter skiing is in keeping with the "Green" initiatives of the provincial government. It is probably the most fuel intensive sport known today on the planet.

#827 - 2007.02.26 Glenn Woodsworth - Deadline for comments
Comments should be in Victoria no later than March 9th. And, as usual, a letter is better than an email, but an email is better than nothing.

#826 - 2007.02.25 Sandra McGuinness - Any idea when deadline for comments ends?
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