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Company says security procedures prohibitive, so it has not operated in 2010



One of Sea to Sky's heli-skiing operations is suing VANOC and the Integrated Security Unit (ISU), claiming that security procedures forced the heli-ski operator to close for the entire 2010 winter season.

Coast Range Heliskiing, a Pemberton-based operation that takes skiers and snowshoers to backcountry terrain, filed a lawsuit against both agencies in the Supreme Court of British Columbia on Feb. 11, a day before the 2010 Olympics began.

The plaintiff alleges in a statement of claim that VANOC and ISU together caused Coast Range Heliskiing a loss of profits, loss of goodwill and increased expenses by forcing clients to go through security and goods screening before boarding helicopters and taking backcountry ski excursions.

The claim says the procedures would have made it impossible for Coast Range to conduct business under a license it has from the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands.

The screening procedures would have forced Coast Range to transport its clients to the Pemberton Airport before boarding helicopters; screenings would have to be repeated before every ski excursion; the costs of transportation and helicopter fuel would have been prohibitive; and delays in having skiers go through screenings would have been unacceptable for clients.

"The security and goods screening procedures are unlawful and unnecessary, unreasonably interfere with the Plaintiff's business operations and frustrate the performance of the Licence," the claim reads.

Coast Range Heliskiing is seeking general and special damages; interest owed under the Court Order Interest Act; costs and any other relief the Court deems just.

Vancouver lawyer Cameron Ward is representing the plaintiff. He previously represented Susan Heyes, a Vancouver businesswoman whose Cambie Street business lost thousands of dollars during construction of the Canada Line.

The Supreme Court of British Columbia awarded Heyes $600,000 for losses her business incurred during construction of the rapid transit line.

Ward said in an e-mail that the amount of compensation being sought on behalf of Coast Range is "substantial," but has not yet been quantified. He said the defendants have made appearances in court but have not yet filed statements of defence.

VANOC was asked when it would file a statement of defence, as well as why it made clients of Coast Range Heliskiing go through security screenings at the Pemberton Airport instead of just letting them fly from staging areas.

Spokesperson Maureen Douglas said, "As this issue is currently before the courts, understandably, we cannot comment about the case."

Cst. Mandy Edwards of ISU's public affairs department said in an e-mail that the claim is aimed at a number of government departments and that ISU would be analyzing the case in concert with the other defendants.

"Because of the possibility that this will be litigated before the Courts, we would prefer not to comment any further," she said.

Coast Range Heliskiing said on its website that the company faced "insurmountable regulations" in terms of Olympic airspace and that it received "minimal response and assistance" from Olympic personnel and government agencies on how to move forward. It thus decided to suspend operations for the 2010 winter season and will resume in 2011.

President Tyler Freed could not be reached for comment.



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