February 14, 2013 | Volume 43, No. 6

Operators: Heli-skiing here for the long term

Southeast Alaska Backcountry Adventures and Alaska Mountain Guides representatives championed the positive economic impacts of the heli-ski industry on Haines during a recent Chamber of Commerce luncheon.

Scott Sundberg and Nick Trimble, co-owners of SEABA, and AMG President Sean Gaffney spoke to the chamber Feb. 8 about their expectations for the upcoming season and the future of heli-skiing in Haines. Alaska Heliskiing also was initially slated to attend, but couldn’t make it, chamber vice president Allen Turner said.

Sundberg said his company tends to attract clients who make more than $60,000 a year, and those clients spend their dollars not just with SEABA, but around Haines as well.

“They are the types that can afford to come in; they’re a high-dollar individual. They might take away some fine art from Haines, they might take away other things because they have deeper pockets,” Sundberg said.

Gaffney pointed specifically to heli-skiing’s positive impact in the wintertime, when most other economic engines are in hibernation. “The industry does contribute to the local economy and I think that is apparent to everybody that sits in the room at this point. Certainly there’s a valuable economic contribution that’s made from having that industry occurring during the time of the year that it is. Historically, it’s a fairly quiet time in town otherwise,” Gaffney said.

Regarding bookings for the 2013 season, Trimble said more people are hedging their funds than usual, waiting to see what conditions look like before making a commitment.

Trimble said that despite the controversy that has doggedly surrounded the industry, heli-skiing is here to stay in Haines. “Through all the suffering and all the bad blood and everything that’s happened with this issue...we’re still here. And I think the reality is if it’s not SEABA, this is still going to be a fact for Haines,” he said.