According to the Denver Post, The Bureau of Land Management has approved for Silverton’s proposal to swap 5,556 acres for 16,252 acres of new heli skiing terrain. This swap brings Silverton’s total heli skiing terrain to more than 25,000 acres. It was approved after nearly two years of environmental review. The owners of Silverton proposed this swap to meet a growing demand in heli skiing and to provide clients with more skiing that was below the tree line, which reduces avalanche hazards.
“With few economic opportunities in Silverton, especially in the winter, this is approval is really important to the Silverton economy,” stated Aaron Brill, the owner of Silverton. “Lots of confusion existed regarding our proposal, and after listening to public input, the final product is one that is greatly reduced in scope and size. Skiing is rapidly being taken over by the mega ski corporations of Vail and KSL, which have become the Walmarts of skiing, which makes it harder for the independent ski areas to survive and we are thankful for the BLM approval.”
The BLM approval grants Silverton with a 5 year permit, but it is capped at 600 annual user days. It also outlines flight corridors and no-fly zones around the town of Silverton and confines landing zones to certain areas. The approval sparked some disagreement from avid backcountry users as they thought it would take away some easily accessible backcountry terrain. The annual user day cap is in place in hopes of limiting the effects that the new contract will have on backcountry users.
“Heliskiing is a very popular activity in the area that creates a significant boost to the winter economy of Silverton. This decision lets Silverton Guides fully utilize their allocated user days while having a minimal effect on other backcountry users,” BLM Gunnison field manager Elijah Waters said in a written statement. “It’s a win-win for everyone involved.”