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Wasatch Powderbird Guides Controversy

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 
Interesting threads going on at Telemarktips & TGR

http://www.telemarktalk.com/phpBB/viewtopic.php?t=15002&postdays=0&postorder=asc&sta rt=0

http://tetongravity.com/forums/showthread.php?t=41314

regarding the use of an ever more scarce resource; untrackted powder. A group of [somewhat self-righteous] BC skiers have made an effort to track out WPG's terrain before they get there:



I'm sure WPG is not amused and has been accused by BC skiers as "not good nieghbors".

I personally think it's pretty funny what they did, but also waaaaay overboard. I'm sure a lot of us Bears have an opinion on this too, but hopefully we don't start the flame wars seen on these other forums.

My personal opinion about motorized access (summer and winter) is that I don't care for it. I don't like the tranquility of the wilderness spoiled by noises and fumes. I also am pragmatic and understand that we all need to share the resources that we have and understand that some folks do really enjoy motorized back country travel and would probably not be able to access these areas otherwise. A better understanding of each parties' point of view would go a long way in mitigating this controversy. If anyone else does want to throw their $0.02 in on this subject, lets at least keep it to a civil level.

Powdr

Powdr
post #2 of 20
Interesting. Is "turn about" fair play? At least the BC guys are having to put in a physical effort to do this....

L
post #3 of 20
I don't know enough about this to comment...oh well, that never stopped me before, so here I go pissing everyone off.

I thought that these two groups had come to an accomodation. Part of that was the Powderbirds would let everyone know where they would be flying in order to allow the BC skiers to go where they weren't flying. It is on the daily Avalanche report and didn't use to be that way. Now if the BC skiers start using that to stomp on the Powderbirds 'turf' that seems to give the Powderbirds a very legitimate reason to go back to the Forest Service and not report their locations beforehand. Short of having the Forest Service cut off Heli access all together -- not likely to happen given the money involved -- what are these guys really trying to accomplish? They need to find themselves a political consultant that knows what he or she is doing. Pissing everyone off and creating more controversy might make one feel better but in the long-run it is only going to make things more difficult. In a confrontation like this, it always pays to be the aggrieved party. Sounds like they are choosing to let testosterone get the upper hand.

I say this all from the point of view of practical politics. These two groups have been lobbing bombs at each other for years. I'm sure you can get a good verision of the story form either side, but ultimitly the BC skiers have the upper hand. The Wasatch really isn't that large...out-of-town skiers might not be aware of this, but if you look at a map you might be surpised to see that all of the resorts are actually quite near each other. There is only so much terrain to go around. The population is going up year by year in the Wasatch, and many of these people are BC skiers. The numbers will eventually outweigh the money -- perhaps this just isn't the place where Heli skiing makes sense.

I must say that I think Heli skiing is enormously ineffecient as far as use of natural resources go, and is another sign of too few people having too much money. But perhaps that is simply because I don't have enough to afford it.

[edit -- terrible typos]
post #4 of 20
Thread Starter 
Lodro,

It sounds like you & I are pretty much on the same page: we may not like helis, but can tollerate their existence if they play by the rules.

One more thing to gum up the works is that they fly into a Wilderness area. By law, Wilderness areas are supposed to by 'motorized free'. Allowing WPG to fly in these areas does seem like a classic case of PACs & big $$ to get favors done in Washington.

Powdr
post #5 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by Powdr
One more thing to gum up the works is that they fly into a Wilderness area. By law, Wilderness areas are supposed to by 'motorized free'. Allowing WPG to fly in these areas does seem like a classic case of PACs & big $$ to get favors done in Washington.
Wow, I was not aware of that. That does p*** me off -- I thought they were on Forest Service land. And if I didn't know that that I'd bet that many other casual outdoor types don't know either. Sounds to me like an excellent point that BC should be making to the public at large, instead of off playing granola guerillas.
post #6 of 20
Why can't we just all get along?
A good example of mutual respect I've witnessed was in Thompsons Pass, AK this spring.
As we are flying upp the mountain we se two people hiking up our intended line. The guide decides to ski another line, so the guys skinning can get theirs untracked. Halfway down, we meet a snoboarder on his way up, the guide stops, tells him we didn't see him and apologieses for poaching his line...
Fair enough...
Pretty much same deal in Fernie, the Island Lake Lodge guys were really cool and asked us where we would be skiing so they could stay out of our way when we were close to their terrain...
post #7 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lodro
I thought they were on Forest Service land.
It may be. Some Forest Service land is designated as wilderness.

I don't know anything about this particular situation other than what's in this thread, but that may (or may not) be the situation.
post #8 of 20
One other possibly irrelevant point: the notion that this Wasatch Powder Guides outfit has anything to do with "PACs & big $$" of the sort that "get[s] favors done in Washington" seriously misperceives the relative size of various enterprises.

(Unless they're a subsidiary of GE or something).
post #9 of 20
Dont the flyboys pay a fee to the forest service just like the resorts?
post #10 of 20
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kneale Brownson
Dont the flyboys pay a fee to the forest service just like the resorts?
Yes they do. They have to operate under a use permit. Ski Areas, however, are not allowed to operate in designated wilderness areas.
post #11 of 20
post #12 of 20
Sorry powdr, while I find your posts well informed most of the time I have to disagree with you here. As far as I know wpg has not used any wilderness areas. Maybe you can give a specific example or the area? It is true that part of the central wasatch is designated as non-motorized but it is different than wilderness.

I don't have much of an opinion other than I hate SOC.
post #13 of 20
FWIW, I think its their right to hit the heli-terrian . You shouldnt be able to buy the mountain or rent it out. If those BC skiers want to get up early and work hard for the freshies, all the power to 'em!
post #14 of 20
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by zion zig zag
Sorry powdr, while I find your posts well informed most of the time I have to disagree with you here. As far as I know wpg has not used any wilderness areas. Maybe you can give a specific example or the area? It is true that part of the central wasatch is designated as non-motorized but it is different than wilderness.

I don't have much of an opinion other than I hate SOC.
My understanding is that WPG got some gerrymandering done to the wilderness area to allow for some creative landing zones. I do have to admit that I'm working off of second hand info here, so you may have to take it with a grain of salt. I will certaintly retract that statement if proven wrong.

BTW, SOC (Save Our Canyons) now has an opposition group called Save Us From Save Our Canyons.

Powdr
post #15 of 20
I wonder if Dick Bass is funding The Save us from Save our canyons group?
post #16 of 20
Thread Starter 
OK, did some research on the subject of wilderness landing zones. Here is a quote from SOC's appeal of a decision by the FS to let WPG fly in disputed areas (link here http://www.saveourcanyons.org/WPG04A...er_1-12-05.pdf ):


The 98thCongress, House of Representatives Report 98-1019 states: Mt. Olympus – “In drawing the boundaries of the proposed wilderness, several north facing slopes in the vicinity of Gobbler’s Knob were excluded from wilderness. These slopes are under permit for helicopter skiing and are quite extensively used for that purpose. (The wilderness boundary has been drawn 33’ south of the summit of Gobler’s Knob and its flanking ridges in order to allow helicopter landings on the ridges.) In excluding the slopes from wilderness it is the Committee’s intention that the helicopterskiing use be allowed to continue unless the Forest Service at some future time determines it inappropriate for non-wilderness reasons…the Committee shares the Senate Report’s conclusion that regular helicopter overflights shall be deemed consistent with the management of the wilderness area.”

So, now I understand how the info I got parses with reality:

- SOC's appeal (& the statement from it above) are their OPPINION, not settled law. In their statement, they are saying that they THINK that the boundaries to the wilderness areas were changed by Congress because they favored heli skiing's interest. In reality, we do not know waht Congress was thinking. Also, heli skiing was in that area before the wilderness proposal, so Congress probably allowed it to continue because of existing land use policies.

- My info clearly comes from an opponent to WPG and when they claimed that the landing zones were gerrymandered, that is again OPPINION.

Anyway, hope that clarifies the above statements. I do have to say that I take back the forcefull statement that WPG flies into wilderness areas. That seems to simply not be the case.

Powdr
post #17 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by Powdr
OK, did some research on the subject of wilderness landing zones. Here is a quote from SOC's appeal of a decision by the FS to let WPG fly in disputed areas (link here http://www.saveourcanyons.org/WPG04A...er_1-12-05.pdf ):


The 98thCongress, House of Representatives Report 98-1019 states: Mt. Olympus – “In drawing the boundaries of the proposed wilderness, several north facing slopes in the vicinity of Gobbler’s Knob were excluded from wilderness. These slopes are under permit for helicopter skiing and are quite extensively used for that purpose. (The wilderness boundary has been drawn 33’ south of the summit of Gobler’s Knob and its flanking ridges in order to allow helicopter landings on the ridges.) In excluding the slopes from wilderness it is the Committee’s intention that the helicopterskiing use be allowed to continue unless the Forest Service at some future time determines it inappropriate for non-wilderness reasons…the Committee shares the Senate Report’s conclusion that regular helicopter overflights shall be deemed consistent with the management of the wilderness area.”

So, now I understand how the info I got parses with reality:

- SOC's appeal (& the statement from it above) are their OPPINION, not settled law. In their statement, they are saying that they THINK that the boundaries to the wilderness areas were changed by Congress because they favored heli skiing's interest. In reality, we do not know waht Congress was thinking. Also, heli skiing was in that area before the wilderness proposal, so Congress probably allowed it to continue because of existing land use policies.

- My info clearly comes from an opponent to WPG and when they claimed that the landing zones were gerrymandered, that is again OPPINION.

Anyway, hope that clarifies the above statements. I do have to say that I take back the forcefull statement that WPG flies into wilderness areas. That seems to simply not be the case.

Powdr
I'm going on recollections instead of certainties, but here's my $.02.

I believe that WPG was flying in the Wasatch BEFORE the Mount Olympus Wilderness Area boundaries were mapped. The gerrymandering was an accomodation to allow an already-established business to continue operating more or less as they had in the past.

Personally, I've done quite a lot of backcountry skiing in BCC, LCC, Mill Creek, and American Fork canyons and I simply don't find the heli operation to be that big an imposition. I really feel that any backcountry skier who can't find untracked snow after skinning up to one of these ridgelines simply isn't looking very hard.

To me, this is more about class disputes than *actual* territorial poaching. There are an awful lot of people who simply don't like the idea of wealthy skiers using up aviation fuel and paying a lot of money to do it. Granted, the birds are noisy but I've never personally had my mellow harshed out by hearing the helo fly around while I was skinning in some canyon.

WPG's flying days are limited and the places they fly are also limited. It seems to me that the current rules are a relatively good compromise.

National Forests have a "multiple use" mandate. If heli operations can be run out of the forests, it's not *too* huge a stretch to think that ski areas could be as well. (Let's face it, Snowbird and Alta have an enormously greater negative environmental impact on Little Cottonwood Canyon than WPG ever will.)
post #18 of 20
Bob, You better stop being so damn reasonable
post #19 of 20
well said.
post #20 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by Powdr
- SOC's appeal (& the statement from it above) are their OPPINION, not settled law. In their statement, they are saying that they THINK that the boundaries to the wilderness areas were changed by Congress because they favored heli skiing's interest. In reality, we do not know waht Congress was thinking.
Actually that is a commitee report, providing exactly that -- the intent of congress. For example if the legislation is somehow ambiguous or unclear, I believe that a court could use this report as guidance if a lawsuit occurred. And yeah, here we see that the intent was clearly to leave these areas out -- specifically for non-wilderness reasons, as you say presumably to protect an existing business, e.g. heliskiing. Anyway, I also see no real devious fatcat abuse here.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Powdr
Anyway, hope that clarifies the above statements. I do have to say that I take back the forcefull statement that WPG flies into wilderness areas. That seems to simply not be the case.
Funny, politics is often a big game of telephone. By the time most people hear anything it has been through so many hands and distorted so much to support whatever point of view that it is almost worht than no info at all.

OK, not to divert the thread, but I thought this was a good case in point. My mom - who is a big environmentalist - and I had a 'discussion' about Nuclear power as one possible way to curtail climate change. She is totally against it, which is true for the mainstream environmental organizations. I think it is at least worth investigtating. Anyway, she proceeded to try to tell me that "Nuclear Power plants produce CO2". She is generally pretty well-informed, but w/ biased info, and obviously knows nothing about basic physics.
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