Rotors turn as The Canyons bids for helibase
November 6, 2009
There may be fireworks at Tuesday’s meeting of the Snyderville Basin Planning Commission. The agenda calls for public input on a proposed helipad at the base of The Canyons.
Wasatch Powderbird Guides, a Salt Lake-based helicopter skiing operation, hopes to pick up more skiers and riders at the Snyderville Basin ski area to fly them into the Wasatch backcountry.
The company has already used The Canyons as a base for shuttling its customers into the mountains, said Rusty Dassing, a senior guide at Wasatch Powderbird Guides.
"Instead of operating out of the parking lot, they’ve got a better place in mind to have helicopters coming in and out of The Canyons," Dassing said.
A county permit is needed to build the helicopter base. The application is scheduled to be discussed at a public hearing Nov. 10 at 7 p.m. at the Sheldon Richins Building at Kimball Junction.
"It’s a convenience for our Park City-based customers," Dassing said.
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Still, helicopter noise at The Canyons has irked Sun Peak homeowners who live nearby.
"I’m really torn because I think the best part of this area is sport, and having access to outdoor activities. That’s one of the reasons I moved here," said Wendy Cole, a member of the Sun Peak Homeowners Association Board of Trustees. "I’d be interested to hear the debate."
Wasatch Powderbird Guides operates ski tours in Little Cottonwood, Big Cottonwood and Millcreek Canyon. The new helicopter base would be situated near Escala, south of Silverado and Westgate Resorts at The Canyons.
The proposal near the intersection of Canyons Resort Drive and High Mountain Road includes rough grading, installation of helipads, a working area and walking trail, according to Summit County planner Adryan Slaght.
Wasatch Powderbird Guides would use the base during the daytime, according to Slaght.
"We want to get public input," Snyderville Basin Planning Commissioner Kathy Kinsman said. "We’ve heard that the helicopter stuff can be a little bit controversial."
Sun Peak homeowners who have criticized noisy choppers providing sightseeing tours over Park City may attend Tuesday’s public hearing, said Gary Drage, president of the Sun Peak Homeowners Association Board of Trustees.
"It would appear that we haven’t heard about it,"
Drage said Friday. "Probably what we’re going to have to do is see who might be interested in going to the meeting Tuesday and getting more information."
Neighbors asked officials in Summit County to ban helicopters from landing at The Canyons when the private Park City Helitours used a makeshift pad at the resort last year.
"There was a concern of course on the part of the people who live closest to The Canyons. We’ll have to figure out who those people are," Drage said. "We have no idea what the frequency of the use would be with the new idea."
Officials have not moved to stop commercial helicopters from landing in Summit County. Last year, an outright ban did not sit well with some members of the Basin Planning Commission.
"We are sensitive to the potential noise issues and plan to monitor any impacts to residents and guests," said Tim Vetter, a spokesman for The Canyons.
County codes can designate where helicopters take off and land, however, only the Federal Aviation Administration regulates air space, according to planners in Summit County.