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Silverton Mountain

Silverton, CO 81433 970-387-5706 website: http://www.silvertonmountain.com
The experience is more heli-skiing than resort skiing, but instead of dropping $800, you ride an old double chairlift all day for $99.

Reviewed by

Dec 04, 2008

avg. snowfall

400 in

vertical drop

3,087

skiable acres

1,819

One old, unassuming double chair rises from Silverton’s base, delivering skiers into an untamed abyss of bottomless pow, wild 2,000-foot fall lines, and the purest lift-accessed skiing in the Lower 48. Bring avy gear, hire a guide (required late January through April), and be prepared to bootpack. This season, Silverton unveils Zone 7, a massive alpine cirque that dumps into BC-style cliffs and 50-plus-degree pillow lines, and the Mad Dog tour, a guided ski descent of the super-narrow, technical, 2,000-foot-long Mad Dog couloir, which requires two guides and rope work. Tap into some of the area’s more remote terrain with a $159 heli bump. After clocking in 10,000 vertical feet in a day, hop on the Silverton Correctional Facility bus and head back to the base-lodge yurt and down some cold ones. If Silverton hasn’t tickled your sweet spot by then, you best get back on the bus and get your head checked.

POWDER DAY: Drag your guide to the back side for a 200-foot-wide, 42-degree screamer called Riff. Don't feel the powder panic-there's more where that came from. Silverton averages about 20 skiers a day, which, given the skier-to-terrain ratio, means there are 80 bountiful acres with your name on them.

THREE DAYS LATER: Silverton's north-facing spruce forests hold powder for weeks, but to avoid aimless bushwhacks, get Aaron Brill (owner, manager, janitor, guide) to show you String, a sheltered cache only he can find.

SPRING DAY: Find corn in Storm Peak's couloirs. The Riding Punch it down Ropedeedope, a 2,200-vertical-foot natural terrain park that traces a series of gullies and steep walls. Along the way are half a dozen wind lips worth launching.

MUST HIT: Hike 25 minutes to Rocky IV, a 3,000-vertical-foot couloir that plummets down a 45- to 50-degree pitch. Check your speed before the mandatory 10-footer: It's followed by a maze of rocks and a slot canyon so narrow you'll feel like a chubby Santa in a skinny chimney.

THE STASH: Traverse into Nightmare, a spider's web of 28 hairball chutes below 13,487-foot Storm Peak.

BACKCOUNTRY ACCESS: Ride the lift.

UP ALL NIGHT: You can drink at the Miner's Tavern (970-387-5560) in downtown Silverton, but dance at your own risk-the secondhand smoke could bog down an iron lung. Better yet, stop in at the Explorer's Club (970-387-5006); they have Guinness on tap and a self-service grill to throw a steak on while you tune your skis on their waxing bench.

FUEL: Bring sandwiches in case nothing's open (it happens), but you can usually grab a coffee and a berry scone at The Avalanche (970-387-5282). After skiing, carbo-load on Italian at Pasta la Vista (970-387-5352).

DIGS: For a warm yet spartan room, head to The Triangle on Greene Street ($35; 970-387-5780). The Alma House offers Victorian-style rooms and homemade breakfasts ($79; 970-387-5336).

MUST-KNOW: Sign up for Silverton's monthly one-day avalanche course. There's no better classroom than the unstable snowpack of the San Juans. Consider it hands-on training: It's your life, in your hands .


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Apres: Your guide to eats & drinks

 
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