November 29, 2012 | Volume 42, No.48

Borough could adopt heli-ski standards

Is our borough being mistaken for a federal bureau? While our borough policies may help us regulate the heli-ski industry’s impact on local resources and residents, it is beyond the scope and responsibility of our community to evaluate a heli-ski company’s adherence to their own safety policies as the Dodovs and Davis suggest.

If we do take on the responsibility and financial burden of having a safety review requirement in our permit process, we should instead look to safety standards already established by a professional association such as HeliskiUS. HeliskiUS was established to provide standard operating practices and strict safety policies to guide what has been a largely unregulated business. They evaluate each company for adherence to these policies and are surely better qualified to assess safety plans and practices than our local officials. Other Alaska-based heli-ski companies are members and I believe it benefits them and the communities and land agencies that they operate within. By requiring heli-ski companies seeking a borough permit to become members of such a group, we can ensure that they are adhering to the highest safety standards in their industry. 

Perhaps a federal bureau will oversee heli-ski industry safety practices in the future. But we should consider that some of our personal freedom and responsibility is lost when we try to manage risk too tightly. Skiers should still be allowed to make their own decisions about whether a company provides the level of adventure, risk, and safety that they are looking for.    

Heather Shade