Taking the leap at Silverton
Extreme, guided skiing in some of Colorado’s most rugged terrain. I had seen some pictures on the Internet (Silvertonmountain.com), of this powder-lovers paradise accessed by one lift and by foot.
The entire mountain seemed to sit in the path of an avalanche. I have a bit of backcountry experience, but “Silverton is were all the avalanches happen,” says local Vail rider Brett Malin.
Silverton, as of now, provides a guide and deep powder for $100 per day. The ski area, not any were close to resort, requires proper avalanche gear (probe, beacon, shovel). Those items are rented for a minimal charge per day.
You are expected to bring all other essential gear, for the town of Silverton closed in 1915, and you will be out of luck if you forget something. Do bring water, sun block, and food, although a tasty lunch is provided for $10.
Weeks earlier, I got together two friends who skied at the same level or better then myself. We were heading through Glenwood Canyon while the sunset burst Colorado skies into magnificent colors. The snow fell, as we squinted our way through Grand Junction, and then south through the rustic towns of Ridgeway and Ouray. The heavens seemed to billowing snow while we ascended the hairy Red Mountain Pass. Cliffs line the road to Silverton, and the snow continued to fall.
We arrived late to the quiet town of Silverton. Our hotel room keys were honestly taped to the front door of the Triangle Motel (clean rooms and hot coffee for $50 per night at (970) 387-5780). Getting our gear together the night before was essential, for we had to be at the lift by 9 a.m., the next morning.
The butterflies fluttered in my stomach while packing and testing our avalanche beacons, not forgetting that the next day was shaping up to be a powder one.
Waking up early, the hot coffee was just what I needed to get pumped for a day of intense shredding. We headed up the icy, snow covered dirt road that leads to the ski area. After a 15-minute drive through avalanche path after avalanche path we finely found the lift for which we were looking.
A dirt parking lot was all that marked where the lift line would not form. A Silverton Mountain ski guide let us know to meet inside the tent in five minutes.
They only allow 40 snow riders on the hill per day, Thursday thru Sunday, all with an experienced guide. The goal is eventually to open the hill to 400 people per day without a guide. On this particular day, there were about 20 people.
The guides went over some standard safety details, and then had us head out to the lift. We were broken up into groups, and hopped on the chairlift. I rode up with our guide, John Stocklee, and he assured me that the ski mountain had been “basically freed of avalanches, and we would be safely guided thru some of Colorado most rugged terrain.”
Breaking through tree line, my eyes fell upon vast fields of powder, with the occasional blast hole from avalanche mitigation. Dropped at the top, a 10 minute hike would access most of their 1600-skiable acres. Short hikes at 12,300 feet are not easy, so be prepared for a physically challenging day.
If you do not consider yourself a level-3+ skier and, in excellent shape, do not attempt Silverton Mountain. If you do, bring your own group of friends, so you can hold them up. Being properly grouped by ability is something the guides at Silverton need to finetune.
The day was filled with big powder turns. Our guide was extremely knowledgeable, and put safety before anything else. He kept communication between the group open, and allowed us a bit of freedom to carve our own fresh lines. There was a big gap between skier-ability levels in our group, so I recommend coming down with your own group of 6 and get a guide to yourselves.
Overall, I recommend Silverton Mountain. Excellent steeps, trees, and powder await you. The guides are knowledgeable, and put your safety first. Be prepared in terms of gear, nourishment, ability, and endurance. Do not expect Front Range, resort-style service, or even a common color scheme in what the guides wear. Do expect vertical drop, safe turns, and powder – amd when it comes down to it, these are the most important factors.
For more information, check out http://www.Silvertonmountain.com , or call