Helicopter lands at The Canyons
February 5, 2010
Some critics say officials at The Canyons have sidestepped the public process by creating a mid-mountain landing zone for helicopters after an application for a permit to build a helipad at the base of the resort was rejected.
Neighbors were concerned about noise when they packed an auditorium in December to speak out against a proposal that would have placed a helipad near Canyons Resort Drive. But skiers and snowboarders are now boarding helicopters near Red Pine Lodge where the gondola at The Canyons unloads.
Wasatch Powderbird Guides, a Salt Lake-based helicopter skiing operation, picks them up there before flying into the backcountry.
"If you were opposed to helicopters toward the resort village center and then you hear that they have moved up the hill I think it’s probably natural to be a little concerned about that," Summit County planner Adryan Slaght said. "I’ve had a couple of questions about it since they moved up to Red Pine."
Disturbances from helicopters at The Canyons have angered homeowners. Last year, the Sun Peak Homeowners Association encouraged Summit County to deny the permit for the helipad.
But county officials cannot regulate the helicopters landing on snow.
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"They haven’t requested a grading permit and they haven’t come in through any permit process that would require us to sign off on it," Slaght said. "If it’s not really anything that is permanently in one spot, with facilities associated with it, then it’s not really a land use that we can regulate."
Adjacent to The Canyons is the Sun Peak neighborhood, which has about 374 lots. Many homeowners there said more helicopter traffic from a landing pad would be unacceptable.
"Some people wanted it completely away from the Park City/Snyderville Basin area and some wanted it up the mountain," Slaght said. "The operator and The Canyons have heard from the people that they didn’t like where they had proposed it in the resort center. They were trying to do something where they would meet some sort of halfway ground."
Last year, Basin resident Gary Drage was president of the Sun Peak Homeowners Association when the issue came to a head.
"It sounds like they have tried to do what was recommended in the general conversation that went on," Drage said in a telephone interview Thursday.
Some of those who spoke against a helipad in the resort center suggested helicopters land higher up the mountain, Drage said.
"The objection was the proximity close to the condominiums, the lodges and the town homes," Drage said.
The situation has sparked talks in the County Courthouse about the government beginning to regulate helicopters.
"We can’t really address it until we have some sort of regulation on the books," Slaght said.
Local codes can designate where pilots take off and land, however, only the Federal Aviation Administration regulates air space, according to planners.
"It’s probably something that we should look into," Summit County Councilman Chris Robinson said. "We should look into it to see if there need to be ordinances on where helicopters are appropriate and where they are not."