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Thread: Why no heli skiing in California
01-28-2010, 08:43 PM #1
Why no heli skiing in California
Why is there no heli skiing operations in California? I have been told that it is illegal. But I have also been told that a couple companies have tried but couldn't get off the ground for financial reasons.
Anyone know for sure? I am not debating the merits of terrain or snowpack or anything. Just wondering if there is a technical/legal reason, or if there was a financial/feasibility barrier.
01-28-2010, 08:49 PM #2
I seem to recall it's actually illegal for a chopper to land to pick up lost hikers in CA, even if they've been out in the elements for days. Gotta be a life-threatening medical emergency apparently, but I might not have any idea what I'm talking about...
01-28-2010, 09:26 PM #3
Well, they aren't allowed to land in a designated wilderness area, beyond that I think they can.
There have been a few heli ops that I can recall in CA. Mammoth Heliski operated for a number of years. I skied with them on springtime specials 3 times. I think one time was a $35 drop on Mt. McGhee for 3500' vert. Another time was on Little Morrison for $50 a drop, no guide on those. On the second drop on Morrison we took our tele gear & skins & just toured around for the rest of the day. The third time was a guided 3 runs for $75 on the ridge between Mammoth & June. This was in the mid 80's.
In the late 70's we did a day with Sierra Guide Service out of Bridgeport. It was a pro deal for around $150 for the day. We skied around 25000' vert. in the mountains above Conway summit. I think they ended up crashing a bird & going out of business, but they had a ton of awesome skiable terrain & long runs.
I also recall Heavenly having heliskiing for a few years way back, where they skied up around Freel Peak. Bear Valley tried to get a heli op going at one point called Powder Bears. Don't know if that one ever got off the ground though.
01-28-2010, 09:33 PM #4
Ha! $50/drop in that terrain. What I would give to have that.
It seems that there is some great terrain around the state, lots of population, stable snow, etc. I am just surprised. Utah and Wyoming manage to support heli skiing (to the chagrin of many). California seems almost ideal... except maybe that the pow doesn't always last that long.
01-28-2010, 09:43 PM #5
Yeah, & those prices were a lot of money to me back then. All of those trips were in the Spring, so not much pow. Some great corn though & some uh, variable conditions. Have been back to the Bridgeport/Virginia Lakes a few times BC skiing & had some great powder.
01-29-2010, 02:09 PM #6
bump because I am looking for some more feedback from others.
01-29-2010, 02:19 PM #7Registered User
- Join Date
- Apr 2004
I heli-skied out of somewhere around Mammoth/June Lake in the 80's. As I recall it was very reasonably priced. We had a good powder day going (skiing 203 slalom skis if I remember correctly) but it was cut short because a small plane went down in the area and they needed the chopper for search and rescue.
01-29-2010, 02:38 PM #8
After spending tons of time in NZ and seeing all the heli-ops down there, it always strikes as weird that CA has none. Hell, they could be based in the flats of the Eastern Sierra (Bishop) or in any central valley town and in minutes you'd be zooming to the some sweet terrain. Granted, there are a lot of Wilderness areas and Nat'l Parks.....
01-29-2010, 03:04 PM #9Registered User
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- Jan 2010
01-29-2010, 03:04 PM #10
Yeah, the NPS and wilderness areas don't leave much room, but there is still some, I'd imagine.
Unless this map is accurate (and I am not sure if it is... I'd have to check my quads when I get home)
01-29-2010, 03:47 PM #11
^^^^^ Add on top of that National Forest Land. Would assume somewhat similar mechanical restrictions (may) apply. Paging LightRanger (f/k/a Scutski).
01-29-2010, 03:58 PM #12
Lots of NPS and Wilderness and the little that isn't doesn't have great snow. Add to that a local political environment that hasn't cared for motorized recreation for a long time (see 70s Yosemite SnowMo restrictions)
For "what might have been" the 27-lift ski area in Mineral King, now a part of Sequoia, or the Clouds Rest (yes, that clouds rest) ski area idea floated in the 30s.Lord King of the Beater-Kooks
01-29-2010, 04:00 PM #13
Does Wolverton in Sequoia still operate?
01-29-2010, 04:10 PM #14
I also think militant back country skiers/riders would do covert heli "grounding" operations if they ever allowed it again in the Sierra.
I being one of them.
01-29-2010, 04:11 PM #15Registered User
- Join Date
- Jan 2005
- Johnny Cash's Prison
01-29-2010, 04:17 PM #16
01-29-2010, 04:30 PM #17Lord King of the Beater-Kooks
01-29-2010, 05:55 PM #18
Don't you know already? Like everything else in California, Heli-skiing is known to cause disease.
01-29-2010, 07:03 PM #19
1. The BLM allows OHV use on their land and they're under the DOI. The NPS doesn't allow it, obviously. Of course, most BLM land in CA is not mountainous--at least to the extent that you'd want to heli ski on it.
2. USFS Wilderness is under the USDA, so "all" USDA stuff is not ok.
Most of the reasons we don't have helis in CA have already been hit. There is a LOT of designated wilderness in the High Sierra (administered both by the USFS and NPS). Helicopters/Sleds can pull people out of wilderness in life-threatening situations, but the circumstances are pretty narrow. Aircraft aren't even allowed to fly over wilderness below a certain elevation, although pilots from Edwards and China Lake flaunt these restrictions in the winter.
CA also has more stringent environmental standards than a lot of other states (i.e. the California Environmental Quality Act). CEQA is similar to the NEPA process at the federal level, but is in many cases stricter.
And, as HC mentioned, our political environment isn't super friendly to motorized access.
And, personally, fuck heli skiing in CA. I wouldn't mind a (decent) cat op or two, but the proportionate impact of helicopters on other user groups is high. Don't Wasatch the Sierra.Originally Posted by basinbeater
01-29-2010, 07:26 PM #20
I would imagine the permit process would be just about impossible to resolve in California these days. Just about anything worth skiing is National Park or Forest Service. While technically legal (except in wilderness), it just ain't going to happen here anytime soon. Same goes for cat skiing. Mammoth does operate a tourist cat, but it stays on the closed highway, or on their permitted land (they run tourists out to a view point or a mid gondola station dinner.)
I agree it is a constitutional right for Americans to be assholes...its just too bad that so many take the opportunity...iscariot
01-29-2010, 09:01 PM #21
01-29-2010, 09:02 PM #22Registered User
- Join Date
- Nov 2003
1980: Mammoth Heli-ski starts operations. There is a lengthy article by Matthew Krane, in the 1981 Powder Magazine Photo Annual, about the trials and tribulations of starting the Mammoth Heli-ski company.
I have no idea when or why they went out of business."True love is much easier to find with a helicopter"
01-29-2010, 09:19 PM #23Skiing, whether you're in Wisconsin or the Alps, is a dumbass hick country sport that takes place in the middle of winter on a mountain at the end of a dirt road.
01-29-2010, 09:54 PM #24
01-29-2010, 10:08 PM #25
It is about wilderness. All the best slopes are in locked up wilderness and/or proposed wilderness additions, such as the Hoover Wilderness and the proposed addition area west of Bridgeport. I investigated the opportunities with a friend who has an AK heli op about ten years ago. The most viable area we found was between Kirkwood to Heavenly but we expected strong public opposition from the small population that exists from Hope Valley to Carson Pass. There might be some spots out there, but heli terrain requires a fair sized patch of operations territory so people get the fresh they expect. Linking together a large area that doesn't require a ton of fuel and time to get to is crucial.