The Truth: Aaron Brill

On the backcountry, red tape, and personal responsibility
Aaron Brill

On the backcountry, red tape, and personal responsibility

IN 1999, AARON BRILL (AND his now-wife, Jenny) moved to Silverton, Colorado, and bought an old chairlift. Three years and mounds of paperwork later, they turned a slice of the San Juan mountains into an ungroomed, steep-and-deep paradise. Silverton Mountain now hosts 80 people per day, who pay $100 for guided skiing.

IT'S A RAW EXPERIENCE. We don't modify the runs. Even our facilities-if you want to go to the bathroom, you go in a frigid outhouse.

YOU'LL BE SKIING, and it's 20 inches on top of 18 on top of 12. Other times, you're scaring the crap out of yourself.

THERE ARE SO MANY PEOPLE who go through life sitting indoors, watching TV. If you're not outside you won't gain that respect for nature.

NOBODY LEARNS TO SKI in the backcountry. You're not going to become a skier without riding lifts.

WHAT DRIVES PEOPLE to ski powder is a feeling within their souls. But there are also a bunch of people you'll find in the terrain park on a powder day. Obviously, that touches their souls as well.

I'VE BEEN GOING through the federal lands process since the Clinton Administra-tion. I thought with Bush-they're pro dev-elopment-maybe things would speed up. It speeds up if you're a billionaire. Unless you're big business, they don't work for you.

I DON'T KNOW whether I'd have undertaken the whole thing if I'd known what I was in for. But I'm happy. You just have to modify and adapt. If you're not flexible, you're not gonna make it.

WHEN YOU'RE ALONE IN the backcountry, you're only responsible for yourself. One of the things that irritates me about America right now is that the government thinks its job is to protect us from ourselves. That's not true. America is founded on freedom, and being able to do stuff that doesn't hurt other people. But now we're a bunch of sissies that are afraid to take responsibility for our own actions.