February 3, 2011 |

Heli group still seeks consensus

A proposed helicopter skiing ordinance is set for a third public hearing at Tuesday’s Haines Borough Assembly meeting.

The heli-skiing season opened this month, but a mayor-appointed heli-skiing work group has yet to reach consensus on recommendations for the assembly’s ordinance.

The most recent draft of the ordinance included reference to a heli-skiing map that would designate low-impact areas with no skier day limit.

The ordinance would keep a base limit of "no more than a total of 1,200 skier days" for initial allocation for the rest of the approved map, and would allow for a third heli-skiing tour operator in the borough. Alaska Mountain Guides has applied for a permit to join Alaska Heliskiing and Southeast Alaska Backcountry Adventures, but the assembly has postponed a decision on approving the permit.

At Wednesday’s work group meeting, helicopter pilot Sean Cone suggested that at least the first year of global positioning system technology in the helicopters should be for data collection only, not to punish operators who go outside the boundaries of the map. He said the map then could be adjusted after enough data has been gathered. It is unclear whether GPS data will be collected this season.

Another proposal is setting up an e-mail notification system so backcountry recreationists can request that heli-skiing operators don’t use certain areas on desired dates. A few days’ notice would be necessary for such requests.

The work group is scheduled to meet again 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 8 in the assembly chambers.