The Mountain Maker

Co-founder, Silverton Mountain

Feb 25, 2009
Outside Magazine

I started out staring at a map. I had never been to Silverton, Colorado, but moved there with my wife, Jenny, in October of 1999. There were a few depleted mining claims we liked. We were trying to figure out how to maximize access to the best terrain with a simple rope tow. Originally, we were just gonna buy ten acres and allow people access to the adjacent public lands, but that didn't work out, so we started thinking bigger. We eventually got 519 acres for the price of a condo at your typical ski resort. Over the eight years it took to get started, I'd say three were spent dealing with permits. County, liquor, land, BLM, lawyers—I didn't finish the permitting process until 2007. We have just one chairlift, a used one we bought from Mammoth. They wanted $150,000 initially, but the Forest Service gave them a deadline. We got it for $25,000. With only one lift, you have to hike to get to a lot of our terrain. You also need an avalanche beacon, shovel, and probe, but we rent all that stuff. We've come a long way. The first year, we had two employees—my wife and I guided. Now, finally, we're able to enjoy the mountain ourselves.


Acres of land
Brill initially bought in the defunct mining town of Gladstone, just outside of Silverton (pop. 500). After ten years of environmental assessments and a new 40-year lease, the ski area now covers 1,819 acres.

Semi loads
required to haul the lift's 15 towers, 120 chairs, two miles of cable, pair of terminals, 200-hp motor house, and two 11-foot bull wheels 900 miles from Mammoth to Silverton.

Maximum number of skiers
per day the BLM allowed Brill his first year of operation.After yearly increases, Silverton can now host 475 backcountry users a day.

Number of snowboards Brill has beaten to death since 2001.

Cars that can fit, double- and triple-parked, in the parking lot, which is ten feet from the lift.

Estimated board-feet of timber felled to clear the lift line. For three and a half months, Brill and one other worker cut down about 75trees a day. The wood sold for $15,000.

Helicopter trips
required to haul enough concrete to fill the swimming-pool-size hole that Brill's crew dug by hand to create the top terminal's foundation.

Elevation, in feet,
of the summit of Silverton Mountain, making it the highest ski area in North America.

the International school bus that still houses the ski area's "ski shop" was built.

Filed To: Snow Sports