Trying to get ahead of the popularity of videoing from remote-controlled drones, many Western resorts have banned their use – citing safety issues and both FAA and U.S. Forest Service concerns.
“The millennials, they want to capture everything they do and put it on social media,” National Ski Areas Association’s Dave Byrd said. “We are wrestling with this tension between safety for the general public and satisfying that millennial demand.”
The bans come just as GoPro – the head-mounted camera of choice for many skiers and snowboarders – unveiled its remote-control “quadcopter” drone to consumers. Others are on the market, too.
“It’s a safety and density issue,” Dave Amirault at Sierra-at-Tahoe said. “It’s not the most reliable technology. They can fall out of the sky, get lost, hit someone or hit a lift. While amazing, there isn’t a place for them at ski areas.”
While officially allowing unmanned aircraft below 400 feet, FAA regulations encourage avoiding people on the ground. The Forest Service holds special use permits for most Western resort and is working on adding drones to prohibited uses – particularly in crowded areas like many ski slopes.
“Both the USFS and FAA hold sway, however, we feel it is important as the operator of the ski areas to also have a policy in place,” Aspen-Snowmass’ Jeff Hanle told SnoCountry.com. “We don’t expect there to be an enforcement issue (but) no one will be able to board a lift with a drone,” Hanle told us.
Both agencies hold jurisdiction over public lands, but some Western resorts – particularly in Utah – operate on private lands. Utah’s Eagle Point is the only resort in the West to publicly embrace unmanned; however, management is reconsidering the policy.
“I'm not sure there has been significant thought and research on the topic,” Eagle Point’s Shane Gadbow told us. “We have only once encountered a drone request. If the requests increase significantly we may rethink our policy.”
For now, skiers and snowboarders who want to record their time on the hill via drone should check with the individual resort before launching.
Photo: Quadcopters (like this from GoPro) are gaining winter popularity, but ski areas are wary (GoPro/Facebook)