The man's got a point. You can't go 100 yards in the Palisades without hearing the whine of snowmobiles, which operate in extreme excess of 1984 levels. So why not go after the sled-heads? Because thousands of Wyoming residents get their kicks on snowmobiles, and the right to use those machines on public land is championed by a well-organized lobby with ties to big oil and Detroit. In other words, enviros have to start somewhere, and Shick is the easiest target.
As Hayse tells me, "We're trying to make sure the Forest Service enforces the Wyoming Wilderness Act. Enforcing the number of heli-ski days is the first step, and the easiest one. Who would you go after?"
Shick is unable to fly me up for a closer look. I wanted to gauge his potential eco-impact – and the powder – myself, but the valley has been socked in all week. So I load my alpine touring gear into the rental van, drive to the top of Teton Pass, and join a friend for a human-powered, three-hour skin-and-ski tour. We head south, toward the edge of the Palisades Wilderness Study Area, and skin to the top of Edelweiss Bowl before skiing down its backside – 700 vertical feet of low-angle, boot-deep powder. We make a skin track back up the hill and scope the view from the top. I imagine the shameless joy I'd take at hopping in a Bell 407, getting dropped on a peak, and being told to leave my mark on a legendary heli-ski run like Squirt City. It's easy to understand why this chunk of land provides so much business for Shick and why it inspires environmentalists to fight for its preservation. But it's hard not to wonder, too, that by freezing out heli-skiers, the greenies could be making enemies of natural environmental allies.
On May 7, 2007, Shick filed his appeal with the Ninth Circuit Court in San Francisco, but on December 26, the court threw it out. When I call Shick for a response, he sounds surprisingly Zen about the defeat. "Well, I guess I'll go back to the Forest Service and see if they can grant me permits in new terrain," he says. "And then I'm sure someone will come out of the woodwork and oppose whatever we do."
As for the disputed Palisades area, he tells me, "I can afford to fly there for two more seasons, so that's what I'll do. In fact, the snowpack is great, we're expecting a storm, and we're flying there today."