Copter conflicts continue
February 26, 2010
The conflicts about helicopter noise date back three years to when people complained about helicopter sightseeing tours on the West Side of Summit County. Today, helicopters landing at The Canyons are ruffling tail feathers.
Officials set up a mid-mountain landing zone in the Red Pine area at the resort for skiers and snowboarders to load commercial choppers piloted by Wasatch Powderbird Guides. That occurred after Summit County denied a permit for a more sophisticated helipad near The Canyons base area.
Developing the landing area near the Saddleback Express chairlift hasn’t required resort officials to obtain permits for grading or building. Snyderville Basin resident Roy Crandall said he is opposed to commercial helicopters landing at The Canyons.
"It’s going to affect a lot of people," Crandall said.
Summit Park resident Andrew McLean said he is concerned about how Wasatch Powderbird Guides will store its explosives, which are used for avalanche control in the backcountry.
"That’s a big part of their business," McLean said Tuesday at a meeting of the Snyderville Basin Planning Commission.
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Wasatch Powderbird Guides spokesman Rusty Dassing said the explosives are the same as those used at ski areas.
Powderbird Guides is a Salt Lake-based helicopter skiing operation flying skiers from The Canyons into the Wasatch backcountry.
"We are in a resort community. That kind of activity is something that sensibly belongs here," Snyderville Basin Planning Commissioner Bassam Salem said. "I think it should be allowed. But I think it should be regulated."
The Federal Aviation Administration regulates airspace, however, county officials have the authority to determine where helicopter pilots are allowed to take off and land, according to Summit County planners.
"I think it’s appropriate for a resort area," Basin Planning Commissioner Kathy Kinsman said. "If it’s going to happen anyway, let’s regulate it so it has the least impact."
Many of the noise complaints have come from people in the Sun Peak neighborhood, which is adjacent to The Canyons. But there are no rules that prohibit helicopter pilots from landing in some areas of the Snyderville Basin.
Some members of the Basin Planning Commission said pilots should be prohibited from landing helicopters in residential areas.
"I think we ought to come up with a place where that kind of activity belongs," Basin Planning Commissioner Jeff Smith said.
The county should closely monitor impacts from noise and dust, Smith stressed.
"Denying helicopters in a ski town is like denying ski lifts, it’s a necessary amenity," Smith said.
Basin Planning Commissioner Julie Hooker said the county should regulate helicopters "to the extent we can."
"By all means it’s an appropriate use. But let’s regulate it," Hooker said.
Before voting the Basin Planning Commission will likely conduct a public hearing to solicit feedback about any proposed regulations.