Silverton Mountain Now Offers Helicopter Ski Mountaineering – The Denver Post

SILVERTON – The helicopter leaves the group on an exposed, swirling knife blade. Guides Sklyar Holgate and Fabio Grasso quickly bury a strapped log and thread the fine line through the snow. Aaron Brill throws a rope over a cliff and ties it to the small strap.

Brill, owner of Silverton Mountain Ski Resort, explores the edge of extreme skiing with his latest offerings of rope, technical and helicopter-assisted descents through never-skied hanging snowfields.

This is the test.

“If you want to be extreme you need a rope and a helicopter, right?” he says.

“And a concrete pipe. And some explosives, ”Holgate added, as he filled his bag with ammonium nitrate (ANFO) fuel oil bombs and 4-foot lengths of steel.

And apparently this descent requires a 20 pound log, split with protruding tips. Brill throws the wood at me, telling me with a chuckle to tie him up.

“Oh sure. Here, Blevins, before you ski the most gnarled thing of your life, can you wear this?” Said Holgate, his laughter blown away by the strong winds.

I tie it to my bag, not sure if this is Brill’s standard humor – he really enjoys seeing people scared in whining puddles. And wait, what did Holgate just say about the most horrible thing in my life?

Soon I’m deep in the vertical snow, rappelling through half-frozen scree, the log pulling me back like Gollum on Frodo’s back.

The rocks under my boots crumble with every step, shunning the snow and flying down. I hear the missiles flying inside the dark vertical channel below.

Brill laughs. He urges me to look up so he can take a picture. I think he calls me “Lt. Dangle” as I step back between the vertical stone.

I am Brill’s guinea pig, testing the limits of future everyday skiers who commit to his missions.

Before he installed his second-hand double chairlift in 2002 on a collection of mining concessions that he had studiously acquired three years earlier, we ventured together on uncharted terrain that would become the most popular ski slopes. frequented from Silverton Mountain.

When he wasn’t sure a particular line would go, he would call me. I slid down a 25ft frozen waterfall once, my gloves and skis grazing the ice as I fell flat to notch a first descent of the now famous but still not recommended Waterfall run.

Take one for the team

On Velocity Peak, I test lengths of rope, which requires rappelling down to the end of the rope, and then falling on the steeper, sketchier slopes. This lets Brill and his team know the exact length of string they’ll need for larger, less forgiving guests.

“Before, I was his guinea pig,” says his wife, Jenny Brill. “He made me cry.

In the past three years since the Brills acquired a permit for 15,000 acres of rarely used helicopter land from Telluride Helitrax – and last year they got their own 2012 A-Star helicopter. – Silverton Mountain has continued to expand its mantra for experts.

Ten years ago the extreme terrain was right next to the elevator. Then the Brills forged a treacherous hike, and the big thing was an hour uphill. With heli-skiing – and a thriving Alaskan heli-skiing operation each spring – Silverton Mountain has become the country’s multi-site mecca for slopes, hazards, and depths.

Now, starting this season with $ 475, technical guided and helicopter descents through once-inaccessible deep powder aprons, the Brills take one step closer to the rim.

“More land, more often. That’s the goal, ”Brill says after the third of seven abseils to reach the Mad Dog Corridor spilling the flank of Velocity Peak. “If a few more reminders are needed, so be it. Besides, it’s fun, isn’t it? ”

Always with the smile and the question, daring me to unleash the sobs locked in my throat.

He promises that no one will go too deep. Although no previous experience is required, its guides will provide rope lessons before each descent. The ropes will be the right length – you are welcome – and the permanent anchors will be secured with logs buried deep in the snowpack. Once again: you are welcome and you owe me a beer. But he says all takers need to be confident when skiing in tight and steep conditions.

With more and more people heading deeper into the backcountry and merging the ropes with steep, exploratory skiing, Silverton Mountain’s latest offering could help skiers looking for a kick. hand before venturing into the specialized world of ski mountaineering.

“It’s for people who want to take their skiing adventure to the next level,” says Brill. “When normal steep lines aren’t enough to get you excited, the Recall Factor is a way to keep stepping it up and is a good learning process for those who don’t have these skills.”

So, Brill is the heroin trafficker of extreme skiing, urging people to dig deeper into dopamine overload and make them addicted to the thrills that only a helicopter and a ridiculous slope can provide.

“It’s a fantastic adventure that most people would never consider skiing due to its complexity,” he says, legitimizing his devious ways as skier Walter White.

Extension of the helicopter option

While the Brills have long targeted the most extreme guys, it’s almost always the guys who bite the Brill bait. Example: Valentine’s Day is the slowest day of the Silverton Mountain season, but more subtle sensations are also offered. Silverton Mountain recently got a permit to expand its helicopter tour option – a popular $ 325 per person heli-drop in a remote area for a day of shorter, less technical line counting, then a final drop on a summit. that goes back to skis. base of the ski area – on overnight trips.

With a guide, tent, and overnight gear, Brill will lead guests to remote corners of the San Juan and leave them there for a number of days of backcountry trekking.

“If it’s fun and if people want to do something, we like to give people the chance to try things they would normally only find in Europe, British Columbia or Alaska. They’re definitely not available in other Colorado ski areas, ”he says, once back on level ground. “It’s about helping people push their limits. If it’s not fun then we don’t want to be a part of it and someone else can come up with it. We are the home of real adventure, not prepackaged faux plush toys with bolted stairs to the mountains.

Jason Blevins: 303-954-1374, [email protected] or

VIDEO: See the descent of Velocity Peak from Blevins Denver Post video on

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