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Most U.S. Western Resorts Rush to Ban Camera Drones As Their Popularity Rises But a Few Resorts Plan to Offer Commercial Drone Photo Service By Bob Wilbanks, NSCN

As the use of recreational drones to film videos is increasing in popularity, ski resorts and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) are working to determine how to deal with this emerging new technology on the slopes. Fearing impacts with other skiers, lifts, etc, the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) has drafted its own set of rules banning the flying of personal and commercial aerial drones above ski areas.

Most ski resort operators fear that without taking preemptive action, aerial video drones could quickly become as ubiquitous on the slopes as GoPro cameras are today. Violation of the NSAA rules could result in drone confiscation and/or loss of skiing privileges, and in some areas potentially result in fines as well.

Perhaps ironically, the NSAA is urging the FAA to allow resorts to fly their own commercial drones to assist in lift inspections, search and rescue operations, and avalanche mitigation.

Some ski resorts have already issued drone bans and policies. Among them is Crested Butte Mountain Resort, which has already published its drone policy: “Out of safety concerns for guests, employees, and resort property, Crested Butte Mountain Resort prohibits the operation of unmanned aerial systems, or aerial drones, by the general public, including recreational users and hobbyists, without prior written authorization from the resort.

Commercial videographers who wish to film on U.S. Forest Service land already have to obtain a permit and pay a fee to the Forest Service prior to filming.

While the list of resorts saying no to photo drones is long, Utah’s Eagle Point is the only resort in the western United States to publicly embrace unmanned privately owned drones; however, at press time their management was said to be reconsidering their drone use policy.

Meanwhile, according to Gear Junkie email newsletter, several resorts are partnering with Cape Productions to offer autonomous drone technology that follows skiers without the need for an operator — meaning that Cape’s drones automatically fly with you, filming from above as you ski. Gear Junkie listed Winter Park and Copper Mountain, Colorado; Timberline Lodge and Mount Hood Meadows, Oregon; Powder Mountain, Utah; Homewood Mountain, Calif., Mountain Creek, New Jersey; Schweitzer Mountain, Idaho and Fernie Alpine Resort, British Columbia as resorts that will offer the service this seeason. Customers sign up, meet the Cape representative on the mountain, and get filmed by the drones while skiing, then they receive a professionally edited video online. While drone use is banned at most major ski resorts, Cape said that they have worked with both government and resort officials to permit this service.

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