Please reach us at if you cannot find an answer to your question.
SMG was founded in Alaska by Aaron Brill in 2008 after building Colorado's Silverton Mountain Ski Area in 1999. Brill built the Silverton Mountain Ski Area for the most passionate skiers and snowboarders in the world, with the goal of creating a pure mountain experience like none other. Silverton Mountain is a skiers paradise with lift accessed steep powder skiing AND heli sking (beyond the boundaries of the ski area). Aaron built Silverton Mountain to fill a void within the ski industry and took that same approach to building SMG in Alaska.
For several years thereafter, Brill worked on his new vision to transform Alaska heli skiing. With an intimate knowledge of skiing like few others, you will find Aaron sharing that experience with the SMG guests each and every day while skiing.
Alaska heli skiing was always a bit of a gamble with cowboy operations that use part-time "guides" and the cheapest aircraft they can find in order to keep costs low enough to stay afloat. Lodging and dining had always been subpar and guests were stuck with never ending weather down days. SMG changed all of that by creating the largest heli terrain network in North America which provides the SMG guests access to multiple weather climates . Luxury lodging and fantasic dining through Alyeska Ski Resort and Girdwood allows the SMG guests the highest quality experience.
Brill has uniquely spent 25 years safely operating the heli and guide operations at Silverton Mountain, while concurrently operating SMG Alaska for 16 years for a combined equivalent of 41 years experience. Brill recently sold the Colorado operations and continues to focus on SMG Alaska.
The terrain is really varied and we can find lower angle big wide open bowls, or the most challenging terrain you can imagine. Once warmed up, most people ride terrain much steeper than they ever thought possible with the help of the highly skilled guides. With good quality powder snow you can typically ride steeper terrain than one would want to in hard pack conditions. Some heli ski operators say “if you can ski then you can heli ski”, however we require good quality powder skiers that are comfortable in variable snow and are physically fit to ski 3,000’ vertical without stopping, but we can refer you to a different operation that better suits you if need be.
We base from Alyeska Ski Resort in Girdwood. The Chugach Mountains are a huge mountain range that includes most of the Alaskan heli skiing operations. SMG has a philosophy unlike any other operation and goes wherever it’s best! Unique to SMG we operate in multiple mountain ranges including Kenai heli skiing and Tordrillo Mountain heli skiing, Neacola Mountain heli skiing, Valdez heli skiing and other mountain locations. Our heli skiing groups normally get to ski the Chugach, Seward, Valdez and Tordrillo Mountains during their week-long stay in an unbelievable ski week of enjoying the best snow and weather conditions.
We enjoy a variety of terrain covering multiple mountain ranges over thousands of square miles including the coastal fjords of Seward. This allows us to ski the best possible snow and terrain at any time. Having a large diverse area to operate from assures the best possible scenarios for having a great time. Seward has some really unique terrain features and allows a longer season starting in November. SMG is also the only operator with USFS terrain near Seward.
We feel our philosophy is better for the customer. Paying for Hobbs hours is better for the skiers, and paying for vertical feet is better for the operator. For example if the snow quality is poor due to a wind event, you would like to be able to fly further away to look for better snow. If you are paying by the hour the operator does not lose anything from flying further from home to look for good snow and has no problem taking you there. However, if you are paying for vertical feet it may be in the interest of the operator for you to stay as close to home base as possible as the less they fly the more they make. We want to ski the best snow just as much as you do which is why we fly by the hour.
The answer will really vary. We like to ski 10-18+ high quality runs per day per group. If a 6 run day seems satisfying we probably aren’t the best choice for your AK trip. Normally we do a couple of really aggressive days where time is no object. This means we go after trophy lines flying longer distances to the best of the best and associated throttle on landings eat up heli time. These days usually involve 14+ runs per group and we burn around 2 hours per group. Depending on the group vibe, we then usually dial it down just a hair the following days and focus on maximum efficiency and can get 10 runs in 1 hour if we “work” a zone and minimize distances. Ultimately it’s the skiers and boarders decision on how many runs we get per hour, but this trip is for those that want to ski as much as possible at all times.
It is extremely rare for our guests to not get to ski all of their hobbs time with us. We have low visibility heli tree skiing terrain and access to multiple zones so we normally can out-fly the weather. If you are unable to achieve your flight hours in the course of your package due to grounding weather, adverse avalanche conditions, or helicopter mechanical failure you will be given a Silverton Mountain Guides credit of 50% of your unused flight hours at the rate of $600 per hour.
We choose not have snowcat backup skiing. Our focus is on basing you in the best possible location to get out heli skiing, which is why you come to Alaska (to heli ski!). Our Girdwood trips are based at Alyeska Ski Resort and we almost always get our guests out heli skiing for their full allotment of hobbs each week.
Aaron Brill serves as the Operator and Head Guide for Silverton Mountain Guides (SMG). SMG has been operating in Alaska since 2008 and is the only operation open for the full winter season October-May (most AK heli operators only run March & April). SMG has always had very strong word of mouth and sells out every season. Demand has always exceeded supply, and therefore SMG hasn’t ever done any advertising. Brill is well known in the ski industry as having a very comprehensive background in heli skiing with decades of combined experience as Head Guide, Avalanche Forecaster, Avalanche Blasting Technician, Avalanche Educator, Heli Avalanche Bombardier and Commercial Heli Pilot. Brill is best known for building the Silverton Mountain Ski Area from the ground up (Colorado’s sixth largest ski area, and the largest heli skiing operation in the U.S.) and for creating a comprehensive and innovative snow safety plan to manage extreme avalanche hazards. Brill has extensive technical and business experience and has developed specialized safety protocols and guide training techniques unique to SMG.
Aaron Brill enjoys the most challenging guide assignments and has guided and run safety for Warren Miller, Teton Gravity Research, Matchstick Productions, CBS 60 Minutes, NBC Sports, Fox, ABC, Discovery Channel and for multiple large scale events like the Red Bull Coldrush. Brill has intimate knowledge of a massive amount of terrain across a multitude of zones and is perhaps the most experienced heli guide with know-how of logistics of working into new terrain.
The operations team at SMG has decades of experience within the ski industry and are some of the most highly qualified and dedicated that you can find. SMG is likely the only Alaska Heli operation that has been under the same ownership and management (without change) since inception. It’s important to know who your operator is and consistency improves operations. SMG was first initiated in 2008, but until a few years ago the trips were “invite only” as you had to know someone to get a spot on the trip. This concept allowed for the best possible matching of the groups, which opened up a host of new opportunities. Exploration throughout Alaska occurred during the following years. The Silverton Mountain Guides terrain options, location, two guides per group difference, and other aspects of the business were so popular it was decided to open up the invitation to anyone who is a good fit for the trip.
There is a pre-screening process before your reservation is taken, and if Silverton Mountain Guides does not have a good match for you we can help refer you to another Alaska heli ski operation that would be a better fit. This is great for the skiers and snowboarders as they also want to be in the best matched group possible.