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Eleven Experience alters plan for winter helicopter flights into Irwin

Winter flights only; capped at 20 per season

By Kristy Acuff

Eleven Experience, Scarp Ridge LLC, submitted changes to the Gunnison County Planning Commission for its proposal to locate a helicopter landing area on its property above Lake Irwin.

The company now plans to limit flights to winter-only between December 1 and April 30. In addition, it will cap flights at 20 total per winter, with one landing and takeoff counting as one flight. There will be no helicopter operations from May 1 to November 30.

The new proposal also prohibits helicopters from flying over the Irwin townsite and the towns of Crested Butte and Mt. Crested Butte. Pilots must also adhere to Federal Aviation Administration restrictions regarding wilderness overflights.

Eleven Experience’s March 15 letter to the county states, “The Kebler Pass County Road is already an aviation corridor with frequent helicopter and fixed wing aircraft operations. In addition, noisy private and commercial snowmobile activity frequently pierces the winter quiet of the Lake Irwin area. We think that a few winter helicopter operations at the proposed site will be compatible with the area’s existing heavily motorized winter recreation and will not negatively impact neighbors or valley residents in any significant or noticeable manner.”

If approved by the Planning Commission, the helicopter landing area would allow customers to fly their own helicopters straight to Lake Irwin to access Eleven Experience snowcat skiing. Without helicopter access, Eleven Experience customers have to fly to Gunnison and then take a vehicle to Crested Butte and a snowcat to Lake Irwin, which adds time to their experience.

When Eleven Experience initially proposed to construct a helicopter landing area, citizens expressed opposition to the idea both in letters and verbally at a public hearing on February 2. Notably, the public raised concerns about helicopter noise, flight paths, safety issues and wilderness area protections. The original proposal called for year-round helicopter access without limits on the number of flights.

“We think the proposed changes address the public’s concerns,” says David Leinsdorf, attorney for Eleven Experience. “But that is ultimately a decision in the hands of the Planning Commission.”

The next public hearing concerning the proposed helicopter landing area is scheduled for Friday, April 6 at 9 a.m. in the Crested Butte Town Hall.

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