Three commercial backcountry operators were granted short-term permits by the B.C. Assets and Land Corporation this week.
Powder Mountain Snowcats, TLH Heliskiing Ltd. and Superpipe Snowboard Camp Ltd. were issued the permits.
Powder Mountains permit is for the current winter season only. The company operates in the Tricouni area and must sit down with user groups including the Federation of Mountain Clubs over the summer to resolve some concerns before BCAL will issue a renewal or consider replacing the temporary permit with a long-term tenure.
TLH Helisking was issued a three-month investigative permit to conduct non-commercial heli-skiing in the vicinity of Toba Peak and Lillooet Mountain on a trial basis to help determine the suitability of the terrain for commercial heli-skiing.
Superpipe Snowboard Camp operates summer training camps on Brohm Ridge which include a snowboard halfpipe and a skateboard ramp. The company has also been issued a three-month temporary permit.
BCAL is still working to resolve Garibaldi Alpens application to develop the Brohm Ridge area as a ski resort, and therefore no other permits or tenures for the area have been issued.
BCALs Charles Littledale said the three temporary permits announced this week were all from companies that applied for tenures some time ago. BCAL will be dealing with six more tenure applications by mid-April, but its likely they will also be issued only short term permits.
"Were taking a fairly conservative approach, we want to leave ourselves some flexibility," Littledale said.
Thirty-one other applications for summer tenures, advertised in a special section of this paper, are in the consultation phase but decisions will be made on them by the end of April. Littledale said the ads are intended to create public awareness of the tenure applications. More detailed information will be available on BCALs Web site by March 19. Documents will also be available at the Pemberton, Whistler and Squamish public libraries and at BCALs office in Surrey.
"Were trying to make the process as transparent as possible," Littledale said.
"The goal is to create written input on each application of interest."
All written public comments will then become part of the application packages.
While the bulk of tenure applications now appear to be moving ahead, some have been delayed. Three applications by summer businesses have been deferred as a result of interagency concerns. Those applications belong to Vancouver All-terrain Adventure, Whistler Bike and Hike and Eco Mountain Tours Ltd. Another application, from Adventures on Horseback, has been set aside pending further information. All four will be dealt with between May and June.
Three other applications for winter tenures, from Squamish Snowmobiles, Cayoosh Snowmobile Adventures and Whistler Free Ride Adventures, have been set aside but will be dealt with prior to next winter.
Another winter application, from Tyax Heli-skiing, has been turned over to the Kamloops BCAL office. A decision on that application is expected next month.
Littledale said BCAL will undertake technical analysis of other winter applications between May and July. Public input will be sought between August and September and decisions should be rendered in October or November.
Littledale said BCAL would also be dealing with conflicts arising out of overlapping tenures in the next few weeks.
"Were looking at ways to bring the operators together and we hope to resolve the issues," Littledale said.
The two primary conflicts are in the Callaghan Valley where Mad River Nordic Adventures which has a tenure and Canadian Snowmobile Adventures operate, and in the Cougar Mountain-Soo Valley area where Cougar Mountain at Whistler has a tenure and Outdoor Adventures @ Whistler operate.
"This process over the last six months has created a constructive framework to resolve these issues," said David Riley, also of BCAL. "Theres been a change in attitudes. Weve been pleasantly surprised. Theyve stepped up and are willing to deal with us."
While most commercial backcountry operators have come to realize the tenure process is the only way to legally operate, there are still some who reject BCALs authority.
Littledale said Outback Snowmobiles, which rents snowmobiles to customers, continues to operate even though the company has been issued a cease and desist order. Riley said the company has to be caught in the act before BCAL can step up its enforcement. If caught, BCAL could issue a seizure notice to Outback and confiscate their equipment. Ultimately, fines and jail terms are possible.
"Were trying to attain a level of mutual understanding with Outback Snowmobiles," Riley said.
While regulating commercial operators is BCALs main task at the moment, Littledale said the number of public snowmobilers is becoming a larger issue than just commercial recreation. BCAL is looking at Wyoming, where there are so many snowmobiles smog problems have developed in some remote valleys.
"Were a long way from that," Riley said, "but land-use capacity is becoming an issue."