Comment Letter: Eaglecrest Heli-Skiing

March 17, 2019

Alaska Quiet Rights Coalition

P.O. Box 202592

Anchorage, AK 99520

Dave Scanlan

General Manager

Eaglecrest Ski Area

Dear Mr. Scanlan,

I am writing to register the Alaska Quiet Rights Coalition’s concern about the prospect of helicopter skiing at Eaglecrest in the Ben Stewart area. 

The Alaska Quiet Rights Coalition (AQRC) is dedicated to protecting the rights of Alaskans to quiet places for the benefit of public land users, home and cabin owners, communities, businesses, wildlife, visitors, and future generations.

Alaska’s natural beauty, wildness, wildlife, expanses of undisturbed open space, and peace and quiet are among its most cherished values, and Alaskans, our visitors, and future generations have the right to experience the natural sights, sounds and quiet beauty of our state.  In the vast majority of cases, the obtrusive noise, summer landscape degradation and winter snowscape defacement, exhaust, and dangers of motorized recreation are incompatible with those special natural experiences.

 Unfortunately, though, natural quiet and the opportunity to hear and enjoy natural sounds are increasingly hard to find in our state—a fact which would surprise the great majority of non-residents for whom Alaska is a potent symbol of the natural and the wild, not of noisy mechanization.  Although there are many places in Alaska that look the same as they did 100 or more years ago, very few sound as they did only 10 or 20 years earlier.  

As AQRC understands it, the plan would be to offer a one-day event whereby people could catch a ride on a helicopter with Alaska Powder Descents into the Ben Stewart area for a small fee. 

Heli-skiing conflicts with other activities that people in the community pursue in the Ben Stewart area. Plenty of people— skiers, hunters, hikers —use the alpine zone west of the road to recreate in a quiet environment. Because Eaglecrest Road is the only road access to the snowline in Juneau, it is not practical to tell them to ‘go somewhere else.’ At the same time, heli-ski operators have access to hundreds of thousands of acres where this event could be held; if Eaglecrest and APD would like to cross-promote each other’s business, APD could staff an information booth at Eaglecrest, and ski elsewhere. The logical choice would be in the existing motorized area near Mt. Troy where there is already snowmachine traffic and no one would be disturbed. 

Second, we are concerned this proposed one-day event could have implications that are much bigger, and there some key questions unanswered. For example, what assurance can you offer the community that this won’t lead to additional ‘one-day’ events, or additional tour operators getting on board, to the point where Ben Stewart becomes a very different environment? If the event is successful, are APD and Eaglecrest considering upping the price and turning it from a community event into something more exclusive? Additionally, what kind of permitting process is involved here, and how would the precedent of this one-day event affect how the area will be used in the future? 

AQRC promotes a balance of recreational activities.  There are many people that seek out quiet areas for non-motorized recreational activities.   It is of great importance to have areas accessible from a road where people can enjoy the outdoors on skis, snowshoes or foot where the soundscape is not dominated by noise from motorized recreation such as snowmachining to motor assisted recreation like heli-skiing.  Please do not hold a heli-skiing event in the Ben Stewart area.  Thank you.


Brian Okonek

President, Alaska Quiet Rights Coalition