Silverton Mountain, southern Colorado’s premier ski area for those who crave steep lines and fresh tracks, has been sold to new owners. The couple who founded the mountain, Aaron and Jenny Brill, decided to sell to Heli Adventures Inc. Heli is an Aspen, CO-based company owned and operated by Andy Culp and Brock Strasbourger. The duo built their company over the last 7 years, and while this might seem like another corporate buyout in skiing, it’s not. Heli has said they’ll be leaving the entire Silverton employee team in place and want to uphold the resort’s reputation as an extreme skiers’ paradise.
The decision certainly did not come easy, as Aaron Brill was quoted as saying, “It’s a pretty emotional day.” Aaron broke ground on Silverton in 1999 after searching the American West for the ideal location to open a ski area for experts who wanted to escape the crowds. He pulled into Silverton in a retired UPS van and started scouting; a visual that reflects the tough and respected attitude the resort carries today. Aaron hand-dug the foundations for the lift towers, shipped a used double-seater chair lift out from California and filed mining claims with the Bureau of Land Management. According to The Colorado Sun, he bought 220 acres for “less than what it costs to buy a condo in Telluride.” It wasn’t until 2005 that the BLM approved his requests, and Silverton Mountain was born.
Aaron lawyered up, beating cases from those who opposed him, including an Aspen businessman who had wanted to build a $20 Million resort with a mountain-top restaurant and connecting gondola. Avalanche professionals cautioned him that the consistently unstable San Juan Mountain Range snowpack would be too dangerous. Aaron took their advice but carried on, creating a team of Ski Patrollers that are arguably the best in the country. “Everyone told me 24 1/2 years ago that we could not do Silverton Mountain without having fatalities all the time,” he said. “We have never had a snow safety fatality.”
Considering the brilliant reputation Silverton has and the years of hard work it took to get here. The Brills understandably had rigorous requirements for a buyer. They would have to keep the mountain’s 50 employees in place. They would have to share the vision for the ski area along with a strong passion for skiing, and they could not be ‘golf course-slash-real estate guys.’ Andy and Brock of Heli Adventures Inc. met this criteria with flying colors. We can only hope that they stay true to their word and work hard to keep Silverton Mountain the oasis that it is. As some have said, in the sea of corporate skiing, Silverton stands alone. A profitable business that supports the town it’s in, the mountain is living proof that resorts don’t need to gut the average workers of the ski towns they reside in. They can, in fact, boost themselves and the town.
As for Aaron and Jenny Brill, you’ll be able to find them at Silverton’s Alaska heli-ski operation, flying and skiing with guests from October through June. Silverton’s Alaska-based heli-skiing outfitter has 25 million acres of skiable terrain under their permit, and with Jenny and Aaron at the helm, will be flying for years to come.