Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

Winter tour permit on hold


October 26, 2017

An Alaska Mountain Guide permit application to operate winter tours around 26 Mile will head to committee before the Haines Borough Assembly takes action.

A resident and winter tour operator objected to certain aspects of AMG owner Sean Gaffney’s proposed backcountry ski, snowmachine and snow cat tour areas. The terrain includes land around Porcupine Road, Sunshine Mountain Road, the catskiing area, Little Salmon Road, Flower Mountain and from Devil’s Elbow up three miles along the Tsirku River Valley.

Gaffney said the tour promotes winter tourism and that snowmachine use is an important part of that economy.

“The areas we have proposed for this tour area have traditionally seen a lot of snowmobile use,” Gaffney said. “That’s part of the reason we selected those areas.”

Scott Sundberg also runs a winter tour operation in the area. He said Gaffney’s proposed snow cat skiing tour would crowd the terrain where he already conducts business.

“I support Sean and winter tourism, but I do think we need to look at where there’s already heavy use or there would be conflicts,” Sundberg said. “I would request the Snowcat Mountain be taken off of the permit until he develops his business and we can see what types of impacts we’re actually seeing and that can be accommodated.”

Jessica Plachta revealed her and her neighbors’ coveted cross-country ski area, in the hopes Gaffney would consider removing it from his proposal.

“I really don’t want to tell you all about my secret cross-country skiing area but I have to because it’s part of this proposal,” Plachta said. “There’s a bunch of us who have a secret spot and we go there and we cross-country ski every single day during the winter and we’re really careful about the way we ski there because it’s got really special wildlife that doesn’t occur anywhere else in the valley.”

She asked that the terrain near the Little Salmon Road from the Tsirku River to Devil’s Elbow be removed.

The tours would be limited to 10 individuals around Flower Mountain, DNR owned land, and 20 in other areas. The tour plans to allow up to eight snowmachines at any given time.

Assembly member Tom Morphet made a motion that the tour area proposal be scheduled for a committee of the whole meeting, so the assembly could garner additional community input. The assembly voted unanimously to do so. The meeting is scheduled for Nov. 29 at 6 p.m.


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