Guest Editorial |

Guest Editorial

Mike Quinones, Park City

I would like to comment on and bring into perspective the recent articles concerning the proposed Wasatch Powderbird Guides helipad. I first have to say I am a bit biased since I am a backcountry skier, past Powderbird ski guide and an advocate for this type of resource. Powderbirds had a full-time operation working out of the Canyons ski resort for about 15years. The operation followed strict self-imposed guidelines in order not to fly over and disturb the local residents. I can’t recall anytime we had a noise complaint let alone "rattling windows and knocking pictures off the wall." Yes, it is convenient to fly over a couple of ridges and pick up paying customers that want to experience what may be a ski day of a lifetime. To make it sound like a helicopter will be flying in, circling the neighborhoods and landing on a regular basis is bit exaggerated.

The way this works is: Clients who have signed up to ski, usually one or two groups of three individuals, will be picked up and flown out to the day’s fun. The helicopter makes one landing and takeoff per group in the morning. If arrangements have been made at a local ski resort, the clients would be dropped off at the top of a ski run so they can ski down to where they are staying. Worst case, the helicopter makes additional landings at the helipad for the end of the day. Done, that’s it. Now given the number of people that do actually take advantage of this opportunity and weather permitting, I can’t imagine Wasatch Powderbird Guides making this trip in to our quiet community more than three or four times a month and that’s during their busy time.

I appreciate the concern for not wanting another petroleum-burning, carbon-monoxide-spewing machine lowering the air quality we breathe, but let’s add some perspective. No one seems to mind the endless parade of diesel-burning concrete and dump trucks running up and down our roads all year long. Jet fuel is a lot like kerosene and burns a lot cleaner than diesel fuel. Diesel has unique properties, carcinogens and high particulate madder. If you add up the tons of greenhouse gases emitted from our local private and commercial traffic through out the year, not to mention Interstate 80’s never-ending contribution, for a helicopter to land at the Canyons a relatively few time a year is hardly noticeable.

Last but not least is the notion that, with all this dangerous jet fuel being stored, somehow it’s going to perpetuate some catastrophic conflagration and burn our forests down. I assure everyone, we have very good fire prevention and inspection professionals that wont allow any code violations regarding the strict EPA rules for storage and dispensing of flammable liquids. The dramatic remark that somehow a medical helicopter will be knocked out of the sky by a heliski operator is insulting to both professions and highly unlikely. These aviators, many of whom have seen active military time in both the Vietnam and Gulf wars with literately thousands of hours of behind the controls, take every precaution and safety measure to guarantee that this doesn’t happen.

In addition to have flown the local area as a heliski guide, I routinely fly into and around Park City as a flight paramedic. The flight teams have every confidence in the critical decisions the pilots have to make. To insinuate that these helicopters would be strafing our quiet community while running into each other demonstrates a unrealistic and naive approach to the issue. Helicopters are like accident attorneys; no one cares for them until they need one. It’s nice to know that the Wasatch Powderbird Guides would come to your rescue if an avalanche just happened to get in your way.

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