[Note: Curbed is an online magazine covering the built environment in sixteen major North American cities. Their newest venture, Colorado-based Curbed Ski, provides comprehensive coverage of ski resorts across the United States and Canada. We will be re-posting Curbed Ski’s coverage of Colorado Ski Country USA resorts throughout the 2014 season.]
Silverton Mountain may have only one chairlift, but it is among the most memorable mountains you’ve never skied. With over 400 inches of average annual snowfall and 100% expert terrain, this unique ski area (don’t call it a resort) is big on powder and tiny on amenities. Leave your UGGs and fur coats at home, Silverton requires every skier to wear an avalanche beacon, prove pole, and shovel (rentals available). The easiest run down the mountain is 35 degrees, so only come if you are ready for an epic day of untracked pow turns and long hikes. Curbed Ski loves this place so we’ve created a handy guide to get you on the mountain and lovin’ life quicker than you can say powder.
1. Silverton may be in Colorado, but it’s in the middle of nowhere. The town is 52 miles from Durango, 50 miles from Montrose, and around 350 miles from Denver, so you’re going to need to rent a car and be comfortable driving over multiple mountain passes.
2. The resort offers unguided or guided ski options, depending on the time of year. Both options require you to wear avalanche gear, so you need to be comfortable sporting a pack. You don’t need avalanche training, although it’s obviously helpful. Guided skiing is great for your first time at the mountain or if there have been recent storms; guides can take you to terrain that is not open to the public. From January 10th through March 30th 2014 Silverton only offers guided skiing with approximately 80 skiers a day. Check out the full calendar here.
View from the top, by Jason Barber
3. If you manage to score a day during the early or late unguided season, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Ski patrol and Silverton staff are happy to fill you in on conditions or direct you to the best cliff drops (or not), open bowls, and tree runs. There is usually someone to ask at the top of the lift near the big map.
4. There’s a tent-like yurt at the base of the mountain where you sign waivers, grab your tickets, and can even sign up for a heli-drop. Go towards the lift, across the creek, and up the mountain as the yurt can be a bit hard to find.
5. When you are getting on the chair lift, take your pack off and ride with it in your lap. Buckles and straps have a way of getting stuck on the lift. The run out on the top of the lift can be a bit sketch and you don’t need to be tangled up too.
Photo by Jason Barber
6. With only one slow, two-man chair lift, most of the terrain is accessed from hikes. Hikes range from a short 5-minute stint to much longer, 45-minute treks. Mix it up, as few people will be able to crank out 5 longer hikes in one day. Don’t be deterred by the shorter hikes. There’s still some intense cliffs and super fun turns to be had only 5 minutes from the lift.
7. You’ll get hot hiking so make sure you bring multiple layers. It’s also much easier to hike with your skis or snowboard attached to the back of your backpack.
8. If it hasn’t snowed much and the runs are getting a bit tracked (which is pretty rare), add on a single hell-drop for $159 to up the ante on an epic day.
The Silverton Mountain Base, photo by Jason Barber
9. Enjoy the slower pace of Silverton and don’t expect to make 30 runs a day. Even for super fast hikers, time slows down at Silverton. The lift is slow, there’s a cat track or gullies to get out of the runs, and sometimes you have to hike at the bottom to get out. Skiers also spend a few minutes after each run waiting for a bus to take them back to the base area. You’ll make a max of 6-7 runs and that’s if you’re in killer shape. A lot of people will make 4-5 runs the entire day. Embrace it. There’s no cell service or work to be done. Just skiing.
10. Don’t miss out on beers at the yurt post-skiing. For about $3.50 each, you can bum with other skiers and brag that that couloir was only 7 feet (no, wait- 5 feet) wide. After a few PBRs, that cliff was most definitely at least 50 feet.
That’s it! Your guide to some of the best skiing of your life at Silverton Mountain. Head there now and then tell Curbed all about it. You won’t regret it.