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State proposes lifting limits on helicopter skiing permits near Girdwood

Alaska has proposed removing a limit on permits for commercial skiing reached by helicopter or snowcat to eliminate a perceived monopoly in part of the Chugach Mountains, officials said.

The state Department of Natural Resources proposal would open an area near Girdwood called the Glacier/Winner Creek Special Use Area, Alaska Public Media reported Monday.

The lone permit for the area has been granted to Chugach Powder Guides for about 20 years, officials said.

The department rewrote the permitting rules because there was not a good process for considering more than one applicant. The change was prompted after another company sought a permit last year, natural resources officials said.

A department official would not identify the company, but Alaska Public Media identified the applicant as Silverton Mountain Guides.

Owner Aaron Brill said he became frustrated that multiple companies were not permitted in the special use area.

"If they're not using the lands appropriately, in a safe and proficient manner, or not using them at all and just using a permit to exclude others, that shouldn't be allowed, and that's what transpired prior to now," Brill said.

A Chugach Powder Guides official Henry Munter disagreed with the description of the company holding a monopoly.

"We've always understood that if somebody else wanted to throw their hat in the ring for it, that there was an established process for how they would award that permit," Munter said.

Public comment on the proposal is expected to remain open until Oct. 14.