State delays decision on heli-skiing



Following a comment period that brought 1,500 comments from all over Alaska and the United States, the Alaska Division of Parks and Recreation earlier this month announced it will postpone a decision on whether or not to allow commercial helicopter assisted skiing in Kachemak Bay State Park and Kachemak Bay Wilderness Park.

Instead, State Parks will focus on revising the 1995 park management plans, and look at commercial heli skiing in the context of other issues, including personal watercraft use and operation and maintenance of facilities. A decision on heli skiing won’t be made until that plan is updated.

“This is an issue that will require careful and thorough evaluation to determine if it is compatible with the legislation that created the park,” said Ben Ellis, director of the Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation.

State Parks had sought comments on whether or not to allow heli skiing in the parks after two operations applied for helicopter landing permits. One, Kenai Heli Skiing, based out of Glenwood Springs, Colo., proposed numerous landings and sites, with daily trips. 

Another proposal by Seldovia resident Jeffrey Lee was much more limited, with only a few landings a week to assist getting people and supplies to backcountry skiing and huts.

Lee said he was pleased with the decision to postpone and had been concerned park managers would rush into the decision.

“They’re going to step back and take a bigger picture,” he said. “I think they’re being prudent and taking care of our resource.”

Kenai Heli Skiing has been promoting heli skiing out of Aerotech Lodge in Seldovia. Private group trips are priced at $70,000, lodging and meals included, while more modest week-long skiing packages with lodging and meals range from $7,500 to $8,500. Daily trips are $945.

Kenai Heli Skiing will still operate for the 2013 season, but outside of the state parks, said Njord Rota, owner of Kenai Heli Skiing. Rota reserved comment on State Parks’ decision to postpone permitting, saying he wanted to wait for his lawyers to do their due diligence.

Jack Blackwell, park superintendent for the Kenai Peninsula and Prince William Sound Area, said State Parks received a broad range of thoughtful and good comments on both sides of the issue. In a letter to stakeholders and those who commented, Blackwell said the director may issue a special use park permit if four conditions are met: if it does not adversely affect the parks’ natural and cultural resources, protects the park from pollution, maintains and protects public use values, and does not adversely affect the public safety, health and welfare.

“We found that it’s an important issue that’s facing the Kachemak Bay State Park and Kachemak Bay State Wilderness Park,” Blackwell said of heli skiing. “It will require careful and thorough evaluation that’s consistent with those four conditions and the legislation that created the park.”

The management plan review will start in 2013, Blackwell said, with many opportunities for people to be involved. The review could include working with other agencies, such as the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, to gather information to help answer questions about proposed activities. One issue raised about heli skiing was its effect on mountain goats and other wildlife. 

Also part of the process would be looking at how activities are allowed. Something like heli skiing, where limited use might be authorized, could result in the state issuing a competitive use permit, as has been done with boat launching with tractors at Deep Creek and the Anchor River beaches.

Citizens can stay involved through the Kachemak Bay State Parks Citizens Advisory Board, Blackwell said.

Michael Armstrong can be reached at


More in News

<span class="neFMT neFMT_PhotoCredit">Homer News file photo</span>
                                The 39-year-old current Homer Police Station at its location on upper Heath Street near Homer High School and above the Homer Volunteer Fire Department. At its Sept. 10 Homer City Council worksession, council members discussed what to do with the old building when the new station is built in 2020.
Council considers options for old police station

With plans proceeding to build a new Homer Police station at the… Continue reading

Repairs start on Anchor River Bridge

Repairs on the Anchor River Bridge, situated between the Kenai Peninsula Borough… Continue reading

The Holland America Line ship Amsterdam sits at port in Juneau on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018. The Amsterdam is one of eight ships that have received Notice of Violations for air opacity issued by the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)
Air violations issued to eight cruise ships

It’s the highest number of violations handed out in all but four years.

Council write-in campaign falters after eligibility issue

A brief Homer City Council write-in campaign that started last week ended… Continue reading

In this Thursday, May 18, 2017 file photo, packs of cigarettes are offered for sale at a convenience store in Helena, Mont. Tobacco companies have made claims about cigarettes since the 1950s, all later proven false. In some cases the introduction of these products, such as filtered and cigarettes, propped up cigarette sales and kept millions of Americans smoking. Although the adult smoking rate has fallen to an all-time low of 15 percent in 2017, smoking remains the nation’s leading preventable cause of death and illness, responsible for about one in five U.S. deaths. (AP Photo/Bobby Caina Calvan)
Kenai Peninsula Borough assembly unanimously votes down cigarette tax

A cigarette and tobacco products tax was voted down unanimously by the… Continue reading

Farmers Market: Market returns to locals

You just got to love this town. Last Saturday was a perfect… Continue reading

Homer area school announcements

Homer High School Today — Volleyball against KCHS, Alice Witte Gymnasium, 4… Continue reading

Chamber cancels candidate forums after GOP objects to venue; Seaton to hold own forum instead

A District 31 State Representative candidate event will happen Sept. 25 at… Continue reading

Ken Castner III answers a question at a city council and mayoral candidate forum Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018 at Alice’s Champagne Palace in Homer, Alaska. Castner is running for Homer mayor. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)
David Lewis, Ken Caster III debate at mayoral forum

The two candidates vying to become Homer’s new mayor fielded questions about… Continue reading

Most Read