Silverton Mountain Guides, the Alaskan arm of Brill’s business, has a main base in the northern Chugach at Knik River Lodge, the place it calls home during the heart of the Alaskan season in March and April. This kind of setup is standard for an Alaska heli operator. But if the skiing in the northern Chugach goes sideways because of bad snow, lack of snow, or prolonged visibility issues, Brill has nine other lodges with whom he has formed agreements where he can move his operations if needed.
Silverton Mountain Guides’ new winter trip to the Kenai Peninsula (about 120 miles south of Anchorage) offers heli-skiing among the fjords in the moody, low-angle polar sunshine and rosy alpenglow of an extended dusk. Once the sun goes down, guests can watch the Northern Lights. The expanses of dry, midwinter Alaskan powder are virtually empty, with some trails running from alpine forests to the sea.
“Go for it,” says 88, cracking a grin. I drop in, railing a high-speed turn into one of the steepest, deepest, and fastest runs I’ve ever skied. Gliding into the sun where Aaron is, 21 runs of like this is clearly more than enough to turn one’s brain to mush. Enough to empty a bank account. And then come back for more.
The early-season in Seward is a powder zealot’s dream. The snow falls deep, accumulating as much as 13 feet in a week. It’s that maritime snowpack too, so it just clings to near-vertical faces. The sun rises around 10 a.m. and sets around 4:30 p.m., leaving plenty of time to punish quadriceps. The light, which goes from deep purple to neon orange, perpetually lingers in the magic moment that lasts mere minutes down south. At night, the sky ignites with the green-gassed Aurora Borealis.
The lines can run 5,000-vertical feet or more, with shorter, high-altitude shots down to glaciers that stretch to the horizon or thigh-burners that descend into remote bays where waves pound black-sand beaches pocked with ice and snow.