Mountain Town Roundup: Heli-skiing operation opening at Lake Tahoe |

Mountain Town Roundup: Heli-skiing operation opening at Lake Tahoe

summit daily news
Special to the Daily/Courtesy of Pacific Crest Heli-Guides

TAHOE CITY, Calif. – Powder: Tahoe’s white gold. It’s what drives winter alarm clocks, what sends skiers into a morning freeze, out of warmed cars, into whited parking lots, hands numb, fingers clasping at ski and pole, filing into the resorts and lift lines, waiting, anticipating, calculating the rush and madness of the first virgin run.

It’s an experience Tahoe resident Dave Rintala loves and questions.

“The thing that I like to think about is that when skiing was first originated and birthed, it was about powdered snow,” said Rintala.

That vision changed, he said, after skiing ignited and exploded into what is today, a multi-million dollar mega industry. It changed when the lift lines began extending into parking lots and the lumbering rumble of grooming machines echoed into the pines.

Unopposed to progression, Rintala said he understands the need for lifts and grooming in modern resorts but has always hungered for another way, the alternate route beyond the crowds and into the powder.

It’s a desire that led him to create Pacific Crest Snowcats, a snowcat ski touring company based in Tahoe City – and new for this upcoming season, Tahoe/Truckee’s first helicopter skiing operation, Pacific Crest Heli-Guides.

Rintala said the business – which will operate out out of Truckee Tahoe Airport – will allow skiers and snowboarders to traverse 100,000 acres of remote terrain along the Sierra crest between Interstate 80 and the Sierra Butte. It’s a spacious playground considering the skiable acreage of Tahoe’s 14 ski resorts totals just fewer than 25,000 acres. With an expected season of Dec. 15 to April 15, Rintala said he anticipates 200 to 260 hours of helicopter time, with 16 guests per day, one guide every four skiers

“I really feel that it’s helping the Tahoe area to truly develop into a world-class operation,” he said.

As Rintala sees it, the region has almost every variety of skiing amenity except for heli-skiing. The addition, he said, will fill a gap in the region and be yet another draw for ski tourism.

Yet putting powder at your finger tips comes with a price – $899 per person to be exact, a day trip price large enough to separate the mere recreationalists from the seasoned diehards.

– Jason Shueh/Sierra Sun

BUTTE, MONTANA – A security guard at the ultra-exclusive Yellowstone Club has paid $1,735 in restitution and fines for illegally killing a black bear while trying to haze the animal away from a paintball course.

`Justice of the Peace Mary Ann O’Malley said Barstad paid the penalties for the misdemeanor citation for killing a large animal out of season.

Barstad told state Fish, Wildlife and Parks officers that he killed the bear Aug. 11 when he accidentally used a live round instead of a rubber bullet while trying to haze the animal.

The bear had two cubs with it. Biologists captured one and took it to the state wildlife state wildlife rehabilitation center in Helena with plans to return it to the wild when it is older. FWP officials could not locate the other bear and said it was unlikely to survive without its mother.

Pat Flowers, director of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks’ Region 3, sent a letter to Hans Williamson, the club’s general manager, criticizing the club for using paintballs that contain vegetable oil, which can attract bears, and for not consulting with the agency about wildlife issues.

Flowers ordered the club near Big Sky to shut down its paintball course and has prohibited employees from hazing bears with any kind of firearm.

– The Associated Press

ANCHORAGE, ALASKA – In the winter of 2010, the annual Alaskan Railroad ski train to Curry, Alaska was derailed under the financial strain on the rail company. Thankfully, the party is back after only a year’s hiatus and will return to the track on March 20th, 2011.

The Anchorage Nordic Ski Association, who have hosted the event since 1972, will once again bring the event that features nearly 700 skiers riding the train to Curry where they can participate in skiing, snowboarding, or snowshoeing activities in the remote Alaskan wilderness not passable to cars.

The train path will start in Anchorage and will make a stop in the Palin family’s hometown of Wasilla before settling at the final destination.

Tickets for the ski train’s return go on sale on October 1st to Anchorage Nordic Ski Association members, and on November 7th for non-members. Prices run $100 for members, and $130 to the public.

TELLURIDE – For resort communities whose economies depend on tourists and their dollars, it’s all about the numbers. And this summer, Telluride’s numbers are speaking volumes.

“The numbers are very encouraging,” said Scott McQuade the CEO of the Telluride Tourism Board. “We saw significant gains in each of our summer months.”

The numbers, some in the double digits, show that Telluride’s summer beauty and plethora of festivals is attracting more visitors than last summer, when the recession hit this region the hardest.

June’s occupancy rates were up by only 9 percent, but it is still significant, considering the Telluride Jazz Celebration moved from June to August this year.

In July, Telluride saw occupancy rates 21 percent higher than last summer and in August, occupancy rates increased by a whopping 42 percent – thanks in part to Jazz followed by two nights of Phish. September numbers are looking good so far, with bookings 29 percent ahead of 2009, according to Tourism Board numbers.

Scott Spencer, general manager of the Camel’s Garden Hotel and Ice House Lodge and Condominiums, said bookings for the two properties by the base of the gondola were 15 to 20 percent ahead of last summer for the whole summer.

McQuade credits the increased occupancy rates to Telluride’s established festival culture and marketing efforts from his office. This year the office has continued to try to dispel the myth that lodging in Telluride is $300 a night or more.

– Kathrine Warren/ Telluride Daily Planet

Search on for missing Durango resident

DURANGO – Authorities were searching Friday for a Durango man who has been missing for a week on public lands west of city limits.

Kevin Haugen, 41, was last seen Aug. 27 by an officer with the Colorado Division of Wildlife.

He told the officer he wasn’t going back to jail and took off on foot, said Dan Bender, spokesman with the La Plata County Sheriff’s Office.

Haugen had a knife and threatened to kill himself, Bender said. He appeared incoherent and was jumping in front of the DOW’s machinery while they were performing work in the area, Bender said.

He has not been seen or heard from for about a week. The Durango Police Department is investigating the case as a missing-person report.

The police department did not return a phone call Friday seeking information.

About 15 members of La Plata County Search and Rescue were assisting, including three dog handlers, Bender said.

“It began as a disorderly subject harassing DOW workers,” he said.

The boundaries of the search area included the Boston Mine, east of Lightner Creek Road (County Road 207), Perins Peak and Twin Buttes.

No search was launched earlier because much of the information about the man’s disappearance was reported late this week, Bender said.

Haugen borrowed his friend’s car to drive up Lightner Creek Road, about four miles west of downtown Durango. He abandoned the car about 1? miles north up the road. All his personal belongings appear to be at his home in Durango.

Bender was unaware of any pending warrants or reasons why Haugen would say he wasn’t going to go back to jail.

– Shane Benjamin/ The Durango Herald

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