BC Parks: Garibaldi decisions not based on popularity 

Open house on draft Garibaldi Park Management Plan draws passionate crowd

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The survey indicated strong support for the Spearhead Hut project, which would see three new huts and a trail constructed around the traverse, starting on Whistler and finishing on Blackcomb — over 93 per cent of respondents supported the idea. As for mountain biking, the level of support was 85 per cent in favour of full or limited access to riders.

The heliskiing issue also came up at the open house. BC Parks has upheld that use of the park, which falls within Whistler Heli-Skiing's tenure, despite the fact that only 32 per cent of respondents were in favour of continuing that tenure past 2016.

Aikman pointed out that heli-skiing is a traditional park use at this point, and has both economic and safety benefits for the resort.

Stuart Rempel, the vice president of sales and marketing for Whistler Blackcomb, which operates the heli-ski company, said there was a lot of misinformation about how the company uses the park. For example, while the area represents a small part of Whistler Heli-Skiing's tenure, they mainly use the area on days with poor weather — both for the safety of their staff and clients, and because they're less likely to come across backcountry skiers on those days.

When choosing runs, he says their guides also try to choose slopes that are away from people out ski touring. "Less than two per cent of Garibaldi Provincial Park is in our tenure," added Rempel.

As for safety, Rempel says their helicopters and guides do respond to emergencies in the backcountry, and are there if needed.

"I can tell you that it does provide a measure of safety (for people ski touring), and that there have been occasions in the past when we've flown back with more people than we came out with," he said.

He also encouraged backcountry skiers to use their website to register any complaints, as well as to let guides know where they were planning on skiing on any given day.

In a backgrounder put out by Whistler Blackcomb on behalf of Whistler Heli-Skiing, the company said it used the Spearhead on just 26 days in the 2011-2012 season, representing 850 skiers and snowboarders. The company has held a tenure in the park for 32 years, while heli-ski operations go back over 45 years to 1966.

To read the draft Garibaldi Park management plan and make comments before deadline, visit http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/planning/mgmtplns/garibaldi/garibaldi_mp.html.

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