Bouncy happy play time in Silverton. Grayson Schaffer photo.
A few years ago, I had my first experience skiing in New Zealand, and I quickly fell in love with the simplicity of their resorts and freedom to roam the surrounding mountains–a concept that is very much lost in the United States. So you can believe it was a blessing to come across a place like Silverton Mountain in Colorado's San Juans. Owners Aaron and Jenny Brill created Silverton based off of the idea of the Kiwi ski fields: one lift whose sole purpose is to get you closer to your objective, after which point you put in the work. Their easiest runs are what most resorts consider double black diamonds. There are no groomed trails, and half the season is closed off to guided trips only. Basically, when you go there, you’re guaranteed fresh tracks, tough terrain, and very few people.
What was to come...
Grayson Schaffer from Outside Magazine hit me up to come down after Christmas for a week to ski Silverton and the surrounding backcountry. When you arrive, it’s not your typical Colorado ski town. Abandoned BBQ joints and dilapidated hotels take the place of Gucci and Prada stores. Wood smoke hovers above the streets and a few neon “Open” signs indicate some type of life. You quickly get the impression that the people who live here have a deep love for the mountains... or their car broke down and they just ended up staying. Like the mountain itself, the town is simple, down to earth, and authentic.
The week would see a plethora of deep pow, sunny days, chilling winds, steep lines, and endless tree skiing. Early mornings dotted with pink clouds on the high ridgelines were enough to warm the heart even though the toes were numb. Bottomless pow on the various passes enclosing Silverton allow for safe options in perfectly spaced trees while the looming high alpine teases the imagination and feeds the hunger for even the most aggressive skiers. You come here to get strong. You come here to test your abilities. You come here to experience skiing at its most raw. It’s perfection nestled in a forgotten range.
On the drive up to Silverton from New Mexico, we were greeted by classic alpenglow. Grayson couldn’t help himself and had to stop and snap a few photos. Needless to say I was extremely excited to see fresh pow and BIG mountains!
A last-minute skin trim with the tried and true pocket knife...
The double chair at Silverton puts you up to a saddle on a very impressive ridgeline. From there you have the option to ski right down, hike a few minutes, or all the way to the top of the billboard (when open) that you see in the photo above. The ridge before the iconic billboard is littered with amazing chutes and flanks that rival the best steeps in Chamonix.
That perfect 13,000 foot Colorado pow. It comes in deep and often in the San Juans.
The next day we were greeted with bottomless fresh coldsmoke. Local pro, Sven Brunso, was kind enough to show us his secret stashes, and so the day was non-stop laps with every turn getting deeper and every smile getting bigger. Best day of the year so far!
This ain’t no “smile for the camera” pow shot… just 100% authentic stoke!
A day well spent with good friends and pow deserves a tasty Aspen Brewing Company IPA.
After a few days of snow and socked in conditions, we were finally greeted with a few days of sun. Early morning turns and perfect conditions were more than we could ask for. The stoke was high!
Oh why hello sexy untracked line…
Yup, you were even better than you looked!
Silverton shuttle at your service. Do not open signs and local stoke is free of charge.
Needless to say, time is irrelevant in Silverton. The entire week was a blur of giddy pow turns and big lines. Losing track of what day it is is standard. Life is simplified to early mornings, breakfast burritos, skin tracks, freshies, great people, cold beer, pizza, and sleep. As they say on the back of shampoo bottles, “Repeat if necessary."
Well boys and girls, lather up because yes, it’s very very necessary. Cheers to you, Silverton! And thanks again to Grayson Schaffer for the awesome photos!