Telluride Helitrax

Colorado’s San Juan Mountains can claim some of the most intense terrain in the Rockies, as well as one of North America’s touchiest snowpacks. It’s not the ideal setting for a heli ski operation, yet in 1983 a group of four exiled Telluride skiers decided to start one anyways. Thirty years later, their company—Helitrax—is not only alive and thriving, it’s also one of the hardest-working heli ski operations in the business.

Words: Sakeus Bankson.

Across the valley, a plume of what is either steam or smoke billows from a hole burrowed in the snow. Nearby sits a rusted cluster of storage containers, accessed by a hacked-in cat track. Neon safety fencing rings the entirety of the operation—which is, our guide Joseph Shults tells us, an active gold mine. A few sooty craters pock the snow above, the remains of the heli-assisted control work Shults did a few days before.

On our side of the valley, another few of buildings sit below. These are wooden, weathered and obviously old, the remains of a century-old mining boom in the area. They’re also our immediate destination…

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