Illegal ski run cut in backcountry Forest service hearing set for Feb. 3 By Chris Woodall A local heli-skiing operation has been asked to appear before the Squamish district office of B.C. Forest Service at a Feb. 3 hearing to discuss an illegal ski run cut from a Mount Fee forest. "Somebody cut some trees down in an area (on Mount Fee) that was part of a commercial lease for a heli-skiing operation," says zone supervisor Steve Demelt. "It appears they were cut for the purposes of a ski run." A run 25 metres wide and 400 metres long — 1.3 hectares — was cut along an existing avalanche path, Demelt says. Tyax Heli-Skiing of Whistler has been asked to attend the Feb. 3 hearing. The Forest Service could have a company it suspects charged with the offence and required to go before the Crown prosecutor for a court hearing, Demelt says. In this case, the Forest Service has chosen another route. "The process we've taken is called an 'administrative penalty'," Demelt explains. A company alleged to be in contravention of the Forest Practises Code is given an "opportunity to be heard" at a hearing where interviews of the investigating staff, witnesses, principles of the — in this case — heli-skiing operation and others are heard by the district manager. "It's much less formal than going to court," Demelt says. After the hearing the district manager will write a "determination" of guilt. The maximum fine for the 1.3 hectares involved could come to $130,000. "The penalty is assessed based on past offences, the motives of the operator, did it profit from the timber, and so on," Demelt says. The district manager can add a "remediation order" requiring the guilty operator to replant the area cut, and otherwise return the area back to what it was, Demelt says. The trees cut in the area on Mount Fee may not have any value. "It's unlikely anyone can get the tress," Demelt says, because the cut is so inaccessible.