Comment Letter: Hatcher Pass Cat-Skiing Operation

April 27, 2019

From: Alaska Quiet Rights Coalition

P.O. Box 202592

Anchorage, AK 99520

To: Division of Mining, Land and Water

550 W. 7th Ave., Suite 900c

Anchorage, AK 99501-3577

Ref: LAS 32622, Hatcher Pass Mountain Guides

Dear Jay Rokos;

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on Hatcher Pass Mountain Guides application for a permit to conduct snowcat and heli-skiing operations in the Hatcher Pass area.  The Alaska Quiet Rights Coalition (AQRC) commented numerous times while the management plan was being written and adopted on the need to regulate snowmobiling and create non-motorized use areas for backcountry skiers, snowboarders and snowshoers to provide places for quiet recreation in the Hatcher Pass area.  Snowcat and heli-skiing operations will add another level of motorized recreation that will further disrupt the natural soundscape of an area that is extremely popular to backcountry non-motorized skiing.  Heli-skiing is controversial and is impacting previously quiet areas throughout Alaska at the detriment of backcountry users and wildlife.   Heli-skiing should not be added to the mix of activities already taking place in the Hatcher Pass area.  AQRC is against opening the area to snowcat and heli-skiing.

Areas of special concern are the mountains and valleys east and south of  Craigie Creek. This includes Bullion Mountain, upper Willow Creek, Summit Lake, Hatcher Pass, Skyscraper Mountain, Hatcher Peak, Independence Mine and the Fishhook Creek valley.  In addition Dogsled Pass and all of the Archangel Unit should be closed to heli-skiing. These are places that have been enjoyed by backcountry skiers and snowboarders for years.  They go there to climb to the summits and ridges under their own power and cut turns through powder.  Heli-skiing and snowcat operations in these areas would negatively impact the experience they are seeking.  Noise does not stop at boundaries delineated on a map.  In the winter sounds carries far.  Helicopter flights will affect areas much larger than the exact locations they are allowed to operate in.

Other areas of particular concern are those that support wintering wildlife including moose and Dall sheep.  Such areas need to be avoided by helicopter flight routes and landing zones.  It has been well documented that mechanical noise such as helicopters is stressful to wildlife. 

AQRC is not in favor of issuing a permit for the purpose of allowing heli-skiing.  If a permit is issued the area where this activity is allowed should not impact the muscle powered backcountry and snowboarding already taking place nor should it affect wintering wildlife.


  Brian Okonek

 Alaska Quiet Rights Coalition, president