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News TitleGaribaldi Park Management Plan - Commentary by John Baldwin
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Posted by BrittanyZ Posted 10.01.2013 09:59 Category: Commentary  Tags: heliskiing garibaldi bcparks 
Today is the last day for public comment on the Spearhead amendments to the Garibaldi Park Management plan. Make your voice heard.

Submitting Comments to BC Parks on the Garibaldi Management Plans

Everyone is encouraged to submit comments to BC Parks here: http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/planning/mgmtplns/garibaldi/garibaldi_mp.html

Comments can either be submitted online or via a mailed submission and will be accepted until January 10, 2013.

BCMC Member and author John Baldwin has shared his comments, submitted in November to BC Parks, with BCMC members to highlight some of his concerns with the current proposed management plan.


I have given comments below on the aspects of the amendment that relate to backcountry skiing. Though the comments below are my own personal opinion, I feel that they represent the backcountry ski community as a whole. I am the author of Exploring the Coast Mountains on Skis and Backcountry Whistler, which are the guidebook and map to backcountry skiing in the Spearhead area of Garibaldi Park. I am very familiar with the viewpoints and concerns of backcountry skiers in the Spearhead study area as well as the rest of Garibaldi Park and the Sea to Sky Corridor. Parks BC has done an excellent job of consulting with various stakeholder groups including the FMCBC and various clubs and organizations involved on backcountry skiing such as the BCMC, sections of the ACC, mountain guides, local outdoor businesses etc. However the majority of backcountry skiers are not affiliated with any organization. There are approximately 10,000 backcountry skiers in southwest BC, and about 15,000 in BC. There are an additional number of about 10,000 in Alberta and perhaps 15,000 in Washington State. All of these backcountry skiers are drawn to the Spearhead study area by the world-class nature of the Spearhead area. The area also draws backcountry skiers from other areas all around North America and Europe. With the proposed huts, this interest will increase significantly.


Section 6.2.4 Winter Recreation (Backcountry Huts)

a. What do you support in Section 6.2.4

I support the entire section. I feel it gives Parks a clear guidance to proceed with appropriate huts that are widely supported by the public.

b. Is there anything you do not support in Section 6.2.4


c. Is there anything missing in Section 6.2.4


Section 6.2.5 Commercial Recreation Services Heli-Skiing


a. What do you support in Section 6.2.5

I support “no new areas will be considered within the park for additional heli-skiing”.
I support “BC Parks will work with the heli-ski operator to add value for other park user groups”

b. Is there anything you do not support in Section 6.2.5

I do not support the guidance that “heli-skiing opportunities will continue to be a recreational service offered in the park”.
I do not support the analysis given in the amendment draft, which suggests that hut siting can be adjusted to accommodate heli-skiing.

c. Is there anything missing in Section 6.2.5

I suggest adding “To explore whether BC Parks should be phasing out heli-skiing in the park”.


  • One of the key motivations for the current Amendment to the 1990 Master Plan is the tremendous growth of backcountry skiing in the Spearhead area and the proposal to build huts. There have been major changes since 1990 that need to be acknowledged and addressed. This amendment does nothing to allow Parks to address the most important issues arising from those changes that are related to heli-skiing.
  • The continued support for heli-skiing does not allow Park staff enough lee-way to deal with major changes that are and will continue to occur within the Spearhead study area. Under the current guidance Parks staff would be directed to renew the heli-ski license that expires in 2016 for a longer term. There would be no opportunity to consider any issues arising from heli-skiing in the Spearhead area. With the proposed huts system and the continued growth of backcountry skiing it is possible that conflicts with heli-skiing would be unmanageable. Parks staff need to be given a guidance which allows them to consider all possible ways of dealing with these conflicts.
  • The development of a hut system in the Spearhead area will elevate this area to a world-class backcountry ski destination comparable to the well-known Wapta Traverse in the Canadian Rockies or the famous Haute Route in Europe. Backcountry skiers will come from all around the world to experience the unique natural setting and beauty that this area offers. Heli-skiing in the Spearhead area will have a very significant negative effect on the quality of experience that these visitors will have. No other world-class backcountry ski destination overlaps with heli-ski tenure.
  • The importance of backcountry skiing on the local economy is very significant and needs to be acknowledged.
  • It is also essential to recognize that phasing out heli-skiing in the Spearhead area will have very little impact on the Whistler economy.  Heli-skiing will continue in the enormous tenure areas outside the park. This point does not seem to have been acknowledged in the analysis behind the amendment proposal where it is implied that phasing out heli-skiing in the park will have a negative effect of the local economy. Also significant is Whistler-Blackcomb’s new backcountry guiding operation which will be negatively impacting by heli-skiing.
  • The proposed guidance does not allow Parks to fully develop a useful hut system. It has been suggested in the analysis behind the amendment that conflict between backcountry skiers and heli-skiing could be mitigated through appropriate hut siting. A well developed hut system needs to consider a wide range of issues regarding hut location such as appropriate spacing between huts for backcountry skiers safety. I feel strongly that if Parks staff are required to relocate huts to avoid conflicts with heli-skiing that it would result in very inappropriate hut locations. The only workable way to proceed is to give Parks staff the guidance that allows them to phase out heli-skiing in certain areas or in the entire area if that is what they feel is needed.
  • Since the 1990 Master Plan there has been a tremendous growth in mechanized activity in all areas surrounding Garibaldi Park. Backcountry skiers are increasingly looking to Garibaldi Park as an area free from conflict with motorized recreation. It is inappropriate to continue heli-skiing in the park without addressing this issue. Any guidance to Parks in the Amendment must allow Parks to consider the bigger picture and the role of the park.
  • The phasing out of heli-skiing in the park was supported by the public in 1990 and continues to receive large support yet the current guidance does not allow Parks to consider this issue fully.
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