The Indy Operator, 31
You wouldn't tag Aaron Brill as a rabid entrepreneur. He slathers his freckled face in baby sunblock from a pink bottle. Six-two, lanky, he's stingy with his smiles, flinty with his words. But he's making ski-industry waves in spite of himself. "In college I was the guy who threw the parties, he mumbles. "I'm not exactly a people person, but there was no one doing it, so I just stepped in. I guess I'm doing the same thing for expert skiers now. After snowboarding at club fields in New Zealand in 1991—with their rudimentary facilities, lift-accessed backcountry, and low-maintenance vibe—he told his girlfriend (and now wife) Jenny Ader that he was going to do the same thing in North America. For a decade, he tried everything from a snowcat business in Utah to a mom 'n' pop ski area in British Columbia before settling on a swath of mountainous terrain next to the kaput mining town of Silverton, Colorado. Brill bought a $25,000 lift from Mammoth and secured permits to guide just 40 skiers a day. In his second season, with no ad campaign whatsoever, "we turned away a thousand, he moans.
The Vision: "Skiing isn't about 10-dollar burgers and all the bullshit. It's about steep fall lines and good snow. Developers go, 'Where are your condos?' and I say, 'Look, skiing doesn't have to be about development. If the quality of the skiing is good enough to stand alone, you've got a long-term model for success. Are you with me?'