After asking federal officials for permission to diversity the terrain of their helicopter skiing operation, Silverton Mountain is now caught in the cross-fires of a local discussion over the role of backcountry skiing terrain in ski towns. One of North America's best all-expert ski areas, Silverton Mountain currently offers one chairlift and over 400" inches of snow to expert skiers looking for a legitimate powder experience. And while most people who ski or snowboard Silverton Mountain do so using the old double chairlift and a hefty dose of cardio (hikes range from a quick 15 minutes to a 1.5 hour slog), the mountain's heli-skiing operation is growing in popularity. Now, Silverton Mountain wants access to low-risk avalanche terrain in an effort to better serve heli-skiing guests, but many in the 630-person Colorado town don't want heli-access to infringe on their backcountry play.
It's a familiar argument in ski towns across North America. Snow lovers flock to recreational areas for their access to the outdoors, but the only way for the economy of local ski towns survive is to attract new visitors.
The tiny town of Silverton struggled, especially during winter, after the end of its mining activities. But since Silverton Mountain opened in 2002, it's bolstered everything from (albeit small) dining to the lodging accommodations.
Owners of Silverton Moutain, Aaron and Jen Brill, argue that their new heli-skiing proposal is about safety. Their request wants to swap northern terrain in exchange for safer, adjacent areas. The swap will also help the heli-skiing operation survive in low-snow years, which seem to be increasingly common.
But many in Silverton don't want the heli-ski boundaries (and therefore access to the backcountry) to change.
The San Juan Country Commissioners hosted a recent meeting and ultimately supported Silverton Mountain proposal in a 2-1 vote, but they asked federal officials to take further analysis. The BLM's Tres Rios Field Office has also changed the deadline for feedback on the first phase of the analysis from July 17 to August 17 after locals demanded more time.
So tell us Curbediverse:
*Image from The Durango Herald
· Battle over heli-skiing plan divides Silverton community [The Durango Herald]
· Silverton Mountain Wants to Diversify Their Heli-Skiing [Curbed Ski]
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