Heli skiing could return to Aspen area 23 years after a brief window when it was permitted in 1993. In that year Colorado Heli-Ski got a 30 day trial permit to operate in the Gunnison National Forest .“It was fabulous & everyone we took (skiing) was thrilled” said the co-owner of Colorado Heli-Ski, Rick Minkoff, in an interview with The Aspen Times.
After 29 days of successful operation disaster struck. On April 1, 1993 the helicopter rotor experienced a failure with four people on board and it crashed at around 11,000 feet 10 miles southwest of Aspen in the Maroon Bells Wilderness. Three of the four people on board died in the crash. The lone survivor later told a FBI investigator that the crash was so devestating that there was nothing left of the helicopter.
Since that day there has been a 23 hiatus for heli skiing in the area but that may soon change.
Rick Minkoff has been consulting with a group of Aspen based investors who wish to remain anonymous about starting a heli skiing operation that would be based out of Aspen-Pitkin County Airport. He says they already have a helicopter and the funds that it would take to proceed but have not yet applied for the necessary permits and are still in the business planning stage.
Getting a permit will be a difficult and expensive process but heli skiing is in no way banned from the area. The process will involve paying for comprehensive environmental impact analysis studies that could easily amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Permit approval will also require involving the public in the process which is far less predictable.
We will keep our eye on developments on this story. Please let us know your opinion on heli skiing making its return to the Aspen area.