How good do I need to be, the terrain you ski looks big?
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 trained 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.
Are you located near Valdez / Cordova with the other heli operations?
We base from Alyeska Ski Resort in Girdwood and Seward most oftenly. 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.
You also operate in Seward?
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.
Which should I chose Seward or Northern Chugach?
Silverton Mountain Guides trips have been repeatedly recognized for excellence so you can’t go wrong. SMG operates October through May, so we can find the best option for you .
Why don’t you guarantee vertical feet?
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.
How many runs can I get in 1 hour of heli time?
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.
How much does overage (additional heli time) cost?
If we are nailing it having all-time fun and burn through your allotted heli time most people add around 1hr of additional heli time for $999 per person. Overage is actually a good thing, as it means you are skiing a tremendous amount and having a fantastic trip! When it’s that good you don’t want to stop, so you should budget to make sure you have extra funds for overage at the start of the trip. If you only fly a fraction of an hour of overage (for example 1.2 hrs) you will be charged just for the time actually used.
What happens if we can’t fly due to weather?
It is extremely rare for our guests to not ski all of their hobbs time with us. We have low visibility heli tree skiing terrain and also 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. These credits are calculated at the end of the 6 days and are only usable on similar multi-day trips the following calendar year. In these instances and these instances only, will you receive credits. No refunds will be issued due to weather, avalanche, or mechanical failures. All helicopters, planes, vehicles, and lodges are provided, staffed, insured, and maintained by 3rd party independent contractors.
Even though we believe our locations are superior for optimum weather, there is always a possibility with heli skiing that weather during your trip could prohibit you from getting out heli skiing at all. This is an inherent risk of heli skiing and we recommend purchasing “cancel for any reason trip insurance” when you reserve.
Do you have Snowcat backup?
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.
I don’t know if I have heard of Silverton Mountain Guides is this new?
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 exceed 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 one of the only Alaska Heli operations 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 we 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.