Heli-Skiing in Colorado

If you've watched a Warren Miller video over the last 20 years, you've seen skiers getting choppered up to sick, exquisite terrain, jumping out of the helicopters and descending thousands of feet of virgin powder on ridiculously steep mountainsides.

When people think of heliskiing, generally the places that come up are Alaska and British Columbia. This is partly due to the sheer amount of snowfall those regions get, even at lower altitudes, which makes a heliskiing operation in those areas cheaper and easier to operate.

Colorado, while offering 54 peaks over 14,000 feet and countless more over 13,000 feet, is not known as a heliskiing destination. There used to be one that operated out of Breckenridge, but it shut down years ago.

This year, Silverton, which is primarily known as a small startup mountain that offers skiers access to sick terrain and powder via one ski lift and your legs (you often have to hike from the lift to access lines there), has started a heliskiing operation, bringing the total of heliskiing operations in Colorado to two. The other one, Helitrax, also operates in the southwestern part of Colorado, running to peaks around Telluride.

Heliskiing essentially offers the experience of backcountry skiing without the work necessary to climb up the hill. The phrase "Earn Your Turns" in this case refers to paying for the privilege of helicopter access.

At Silverton, one heli run costs a minimum of $208, while two runs are $320. A full day of heliskiing will set you back a cool grand. A full day at Helitrax also runs $1000, though they are offering a hundred dollar discount right now if you book your trip before January 15. A full day equates to six runs.

The nice part about going heliskiing at Silverton is you have to buy a lift ticket for each heli run, or day, so that if weather grounds the choppers, you can still access backcountry terrain via the chairlift.

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Candace Horgan