The owners of Silverton Mountain have requested permission to diversify heli-terrain within the Alpine Triangle, a so-called “special recreation management area,” made up of more than 150,000 acres managed by the BLM. Aaron and Jen Brill made their proposal through Silverton Guides, the arm of Silverton Mountain that provides heli-skiing adventures.
Silverton Mountain’s base, situated off County Road 110, would be directly across from terrain under consideration. The new areas being considered by the BLM would include small patches to the south, west and north of the base area. The biggest swath would be southeast of the base area on the east side of County Road 2. It would run about six miles north-south and six miles east-west.
In a letter sent to the Durango Herald by the Brills, they say the request is being made for safety reasons, pointing out that they want to exchange high alpine, high avalanche hazard heli-ski terrain for low avalanche hazard, lower elevation terrain.
Federal officials have extended the initial time to gather feedback from the public on a proposal by the owners of Silverton Mountain to diversify terrain for helicopter skiing. The original date to gain feedback from the public was July 17, leaving just two weeks for what is known as a “scoping” period. Connie Clementson, field manager for the Bureau of Land Management’s Tres Rios Field Office, said Monday that the period has been extended to Aug. 17.
The proposal calls for swapping northern terrain pods in exchange for adjacent pods that hold safer terrain. The Brills add that heli-skiing has become critical to Silverton and also point out that after 10 years of heli-skiing, there has not been a noise complaint or conflict with backcountry skiing.
San Juan County officials are working on scheduling a public hearing to discuss the proposal, which could come at the commissioners’ next meeting at 6:30 p.m. July 22, according to William Tookey, county administrator. The board may issue an opinion on the proposal to the BLM.
Once the scoping phase closes, officials continue through the environmental analysis, which would then be made public. That analysis would be site-specific, including a 30-day comment period. While the Brills have requested the modification for the 2015-16 ski season, Clementson said the BLM is not obligated to make any changes in time for the season.