Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Standard-Examiner: Ogden Valley Residents Complain About Heli-skiing Noise - UPDATED

Seems to us the Powder Mountain Developers may have borrowed their ham-handed public relations skills from the Boss Godfrey Administration

The Standard-Examiner reports that there's more friction between Ogden Valley residents and the Powder Mountain developers, as the Weber County Commission considers a proposal this morning to ratify a Planning Commission exception to conditional use permit requirements, to allow the resort developer and a local helicopter service to operate a helicopter shuttle to the Powder Mountain back country from Wolf Creek Resort's Red Moose Lodge:
Ogden Valley residents say noise from heli-skiing choppers annoying
Ogden Valley residents have been complaining about the noise and illegality of this new and already functioning heli-ski operation since it's start-up early in February, and at some point the Planning Commission did issue a cease and desist order, which was then subsequently rescinded by the issuance of an Planning Commission ex-parte exception last week. Our friends at Ogden Valley Forum have reported fairly extensively on this; and for readers who'd like to bone up on the operative facts, OVF offers a couple of informative articles here:
Helicopters In Ogden Valley?
Helicopters in the Valley Part 2!
Without offering our editorial comment on the merits of the heli-sking permit issue, we will note in passing that it seems that the Powder Mountain developers are once again providing an illustration of what lousy neighbors they've become since they moved into the neighborhood, and that we're yet again getting a preview of things to come if "Powderville Town" is allowed to come to fruition. The Powder Mountain developers couldn't possibly do more damage to the relations between themselves and their Ogden Valley neighbors if they'd intentionally set about to do that. It's as if they've borrowed their ham-handed public relations skills straight from the Boss Godfrey Administration, it seems to us.

We'll update this article of course, once the results of this morning's 10:00 a.m. commission meeting are available.

Update 2/17/10 11:00 a.m.: The Standard-Examiner reports this morning that the Weber County Commission formally ratified the aforementioned conditional use permit exception and scheduled a further hearing before the Ogden Valley Township Planning Commission for 5:00 p.m. Tuesday, February 23, 2010, in the Commission Chambers in Ogden:
Weber commission stands by exemption to ski helicopter service
We're encouraged that the Commission is moving cautiously and deliberately in re this matter, inasmuch as Gage Froerer's H.B. 218 remains pending in the State Senate; and we believe it's paramount that the Commission avoid taking any action which might be perceived within Senate ranks as even remotely hostile to the Powder Mountain developer's economic interests, while Rep. Froerer moves this bill forward for an up/down Senate vote.

Smart strategy on the County Commission's part, we think.


althepal said...

Interesting dual political dynamic playing out here. With Gage Froerer's BH 218 working its way through the Senate, the Weber County Commission will be compelled to avoid doing anything which might be viewed in the Senate as hostile to the Powder Mountain Developer.

On the other hand, the Commission will obviously draw considerable Ogden Valley constituent heat, if it's perceived as coddling the developer.

Curmudgeon said...

I don't know anything of the details on the copter flights, but the main posts suggests they began operating without the necessary permission from the County. If so, this is the second case in which a Powder Mountain operation went ahead without the necessary permits first.
The other was the bulldozed trail PM then wanted to close to anyone other than paying PM customers. As I recall exactly nothing was done about the resort having plowed up the trail without getting the necessary permits first. And if the story above is correct, the helicopter service began operations out of Wolf Creek before the necessary permits were obtained. And again, nothing was done. [Cease and desist order lifted by special exemption.]

This is the Leona Helmsley approach to law enforcement: Rules are just for the little people.

I wonder if the WC Commission gets dizzy from rolling over for PM so often....

Snowmonster said...


The Diamond Peaks helicopter operation (Craig Olsen) has nothing to do with Powder Mountain at this point in time.

Craig Olsen at one time seemed to think he owned the place, but that has changed with the new management. That's what happens when pompous a-holes butt horns.

Diamond Peaks claims to serve a public interest, providing avalanche control and search and rescue support and that's great that they use their resources (sometimes paid for with your tax dollars) to provide those services but they need the proper permits...and failed to obtain those before disrupting the peace and quiet of their neighbors.

They do have something in common with Powder Mountain- total disregard for following the process or respecting the quiet enjoyment that their neighbors are entitled to.

There is no place for helicopter skiing in the Wasatch Range anyway- everything is reasonably accessible if you get off your sofa every once in a while and obtain an education about avalanche safety. Alaska and BC and maybe some terrain in the San Juans in Colorado are the North American destinations for heliskiing and rightfully so. Anything around these parts is subpar and you should be laughed at for paying for even one run.

Curmudgeon said...


Thanks for the clarification and correction. Appreciate it.

RudiZink said...

"The Diamond Peaks helicopter operation (Craig Olsen) has nothing to do with Powder Mountain at this point in time."

Sorry Snowmonster, but we'll have to agree to disagree with that.

So long as Diamond and Wolf Creek operate in the "gray area" of Weber County Zoning ordinances, the Powder Mountain Developers continue to be an aider and abettor to a zoning violation, so long as they allow Diamond to launch their helicopter shuttle from Wolf Creek, and land their helicopters at the Powder Mountain site.

googlegirl said...

Aid and abet - Legal definition

Snowmonster said...


I will respectfully have to say that you are wrong.

From what I've been told first hand by someone who works on the mountain, Diamond Peaks is not using Powder Mountain property for their operations this year- I'm assuming because of a falling out or perceived competition with some of the new offerings for people to access the "backcountry" within Powder Mountain property through their highly overpriced "Mountain Adventure Tour".

If you were familiar with the terrain, you would know that Diamond Peaks generally lands on private property on the other side of James Peak on property owned by the Jensen family. They have a long standing agreement to do this. In years past, they would sometimes drop single ride guests off into terrain on the front side of the area surrounding James Peak that would funnel into resort boundaries. They are not doing that anymore.

The fuel truck used to be parked at PM, it's not anymore.

If you call and ask the Powder Mountain front desk personnel about helicopter skiing, they will tell you that it is not longer offered through the resort.

They're both run by jerks and they both have acted with extreme indifference to their neighbors and without necessary permits, but they are not doing it together.

googlegirl said...

Nobody likes a noisy neighbor: Summit County citizens reject heli-skiing heliport at The Canyons.

RudiZink said...

Im quite familiar with the Powder Mountain terrain, "Snowmaster."

I first skied it in the early sixties, when Herr Doktor Cobabe was touting Powder Moutain, and trying to line up investors.

The terrain was "marginal" then, just as it is now.

My advice? Ski Snow Basin.

It's a much better mountain in all respects.

Snowmonster said...


I'm assuming that Powder Mountain has changed a bit since you were there last and that the surrounding area did not have helicopter service then. I was simply pointing out the fact that the two are not as intertwined as some may think and that Diamond Peaks has use agreements of some sort with Powder Mountain's neighbors, not the resort itself.

Snowbasin has some good terrain as does Powder Mountain, you just have to work for it and some of the areas are now closed (DMI, Davenport and other slackcountry areas at Powder Mountain) or can kill you if the conditions are just right (Hell's Canyon) but that's beside the point.
I quit giving money to Powder Mountain when they started disrespecting their neighbors. Snowbasin does not have the best track record with residents of Weber County either, but it does seem that they have learned a valuable lesson from past mistakes and are trying to play nice with the neighbors for now.

They are two completely different issues, with separate perpetrators- both with a tremendous impact on Ogden Valley

Let's try to keep the facts straight and share what we know for the benefit of all involved.

RudiZink said...

"I quit giving money to Powder Mountain when they started disrespecting their neighbors."

Good for you, Snowmonster! I hope many other Powder Mountain loyalists, who were "originally in it for the cheap lift passes" agree with you.

I sincerely hope many former Powder Mountain "loyalists" are also so attuned.

And once again I'll say, as a highly-competent skier who was trained to ski (as a ski racer) by the legendary Earl Miller, Snow Basin is one of the Great Ski Areas in America...

And I don't believe Powder Mountain will EVER measure up to that, (barring a giant terrain-shifting earthquake, of course.)

The Basin's still the best place to ski, for those of us who appreciate easily accessible world class terrain, in my opinion.

Curmudgeon said...

Smart strategy?

Is it? Seems the Commission is well on the way to establishing that it will not apply penalties to people who do things requiring permits without first getting them. PM resort bulldozed the wilderness trail without getting the necessary permission. As far as I know, no penalties have been assessed at all.

Now the skicopter service moved its operations without getting the necessary permits first. Received a cease and desist order, which the Commission promptly suspended.

If the Commission makes it clear there will be no penalties for proceeding with actions requiring permits without getting them, we can expect a lot more of these incidents. The cease and desist order should have been left in place until the permits were issued.

The Commission's defense of hits action --- which seems to be "aw, hell, we don't enforce the permitting laws on anybody --- hardly inspires much confidence either.

But hey, it's an all-Republican County Commission, so we shouldn't really be surprised at its displaying a cavalier approach to enforcing the County ordinances impartially upon all.

RudiZink said...

Yes, Curm. Smart in the "chess-playin'" sense. As we should all be painfully aware, Gage Froerer's HB 218 is now working its way through the Senate. And we believe it would have been a major blunder for the County Commission to have bitch-slapped Diamond Peaks and Wolf Creek Resorts for what is really a fairly trivial (and curable) breach, while Rep. Froerer is lining up votes for his bill in that legislative body.

Rep Froerer is already experiencing push-back within the Senate based on the two heli-skiing articles which appeared the last two days in the Standard-

And you can bet your boots, with all that lobbyist money flowing into the Senate from the Powder Mountain Developer, there are plenty of folks in Senate ranks who'd just love to paint HB 218 supporters as a motley pack of anti-development, radical, tree huggin' wackos.

Gage has so far managed to keep the legislature's discussion of his bill "on track," framed as it is as a narrow issue solely involving a handful of citizens' voting rights. But the recent public fenzy over the "anged infernal helicopters" certainly isn't helping his effort at all.

The County Commission is taking a wise and deliberate approach, in my opinion; and as for the helicopter issue, it's surely an issue which will be ultimately reolved, as it works its way throught the Weber County planning process.

Smart? You bet.

Curmudgeon said...


Interesting that you characterize applying the County's business codes even-handedly on all as "bitch-slapping Diamond Peaks and Wolf Creek Resorts..." But then, you are a Republican, and so a member of the party that often thinks laws are merely suggestions when it comes to applying them to businesses.

If the violation is so minor and easily fixed, we have to asked why the heliski company didn't handle the matter before it moved its operations rather than ofter?

As for your claim that the legislature is in danger of believing the all-Republican Weber County Commission is "a motley pack of anti-development, radical, tree huggin' wackos." Right. Bischoff as a Bolshevik Zogmaister signs her memos "Comrade Z." Give me a break.

If we have county codes covering businesses, then they should be enforced without fear or favor on all businesses in the county. Establishing as a common practice that businesses are free to ignore the codes and the County Commission will ignore the violations until they can arrange a retroactive fix is bad public policy. Bad when a city government looks the other way on code enforcement to benefit a developer tight with the administration. Bad when the County Commission looks the other way to benefit a heliski company and resort tight with the realtors lobby. Bad administration whenever and wherever it happens.

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