Resort adds chopper to air-tour choices

Gateway Canyons’ new Eurocopter lifts off the tarmac outside the company’s hangar as it takes off for a tour of the McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area west of town Wednesday. Gateway Canyons hopes to begin offering helicopter tours of western Colorado and eastern Utah early next year.

Vibrations from the whipping rotor blades send a faint humming sensation throughout the cabin. Soon the helicopter gives riders a “magic carpet ride” feel as it buzzes a few feet off the ground from the front of a hangar to a runway at Grand Junction Regional Airport. But the best is yet to come.

At 2,000 feet above the valley floor, the snowpacked peaks of the La Sal Mountains peer over the horizon. Before long, the helicopter is hovering over plunging canyons and towering spires of Rattlesnake Canyon and Mee Canyon as the valleys empty toward the looping Colorado River.

“You really get a beautiful look at the lay of our land,” helicopter pilot Michael Gullotti speaks into his headset. “This enables folks who might not be able to hike to enjoy the beauty.”

Helicopter tours such as the route that skirts Colorado National Monument and provides a bird’s-eye view of the Uncompahgre Plateau are the latest offering from Gateway Canyons Air Tours. The tour company operated by Gateway Canyons recently added the AStar B3 helicopter, seating five passengers plus a pilot, to its lineup of aircraft. It joins a three-passenger Maule airplane and seven-passenger Cessna Caravan.

With the addition of a helicopter, Air Tours can substantially increase its access from Grand Junction or Gateway to ski resorts in Aspen, Vail or Telluride with an option to stay at the Gateway resort and ski by day, Gateway Canyons General Manager Ken Stone said. Other tours might include a golf expedition, playing rounds on a number of courses during a day, traveling to each by helicopter. Options also include flights over Lake Powell and to Castle Valley, Utah.

“We just took the Telluride mayor on a tour to Gateway Canyons,” Stone said. “He had been in Telluride for years, but he had never seen it that way.”

Earlier this year Gateway Canyons turned over its day-to-day operations to Noble House Hotels and Resorts in an effort to boost the resort’s national and international visibility. Gateway Canyons is owned by John Hendricks, founder of Discovery Channel.

Offering the helicopter tours in addition to its other aircraft tours is part of the group’s $20 million investment in the resort, Stone said.

Gateway Canyons Air Tours is selling gift certificates for helicopter tours while it finalizes approval through the Federal Aviation Administration for the tours. Approval by the federal agency is expected around Christmas, Gateway Canyons officials said.

For more information, visit or call 243-4359.

View a sample tour:


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