Published on February 20th, 2015 | by gatsbyadmin0
Silverton Mtn – Colorado’s extreme paradise
This past weekend we sent out some of the senior GG Staff to enjoy some time in Silverton, CO at Silverton Mountain. Known for it’s gnarly, intense, back country lifestyle there is little that holds a candle to the infamous Silverton Mountain. From massive cliff drops to endless fields of pow, this San Juan valley treat is not for everyone. Featuring the ONLY place for heli drops in Colorado, Silverton Mountain is the cream of the crop. Their guides have vast amounts of knowledge on avalanche terrain, proper etiquette and technique in the back country, and keep you smiling from ear to ear with hikes, turns, and terrain.
We sent out Hunt with 3 other people to take down 3 days at the place they call “Little AK” here in Colorado. There is only one chair at Silverton and it’s the start of all the fun!! You can hike over an hour from the chair to hit the notorious “Billboard” run or you can traverse across into “Tiger Paw” from the top of the chair. “4 runs in one day is about as good as it gets if you’re trying to hike fast and ski fast all day…but maybe then you’ll hit 5 or 6 runs,” said Zen Master Jesse (our guide) on the first day in the parking lot. Oh yeah….let’s rewind just a little bit….
Silverton Mountain sits 6 miles northeast of the town of Silverton (400 year round residents). You can enter Silverton from Durango heading 55 miles north into the San Juans or you can also head south form Ouray about 45 miles through a different mountain pass. Either way that you drive to Silverton, you will see why it’s a mountain retreat for the truly gnar. Known for the steepest and deepest snow in the state is why the line of cars comes into the town on Wednesday and leaves on Monday. The mountain is open to the public for “guided days” Thurs – Sun and Mon-Wed they allow private guests to enjoy the hill and helicopter.
As you leave town and head down a 6 mile dirt road to the base camp you understand more about this area of the state. It’s all avalanche terrain, it’s all extreme, it’s all over whelming, and it’s all going to happen. You park your vehicle off the street and walk to the chairlift. There is no lodge, there is no welcoming committee, there is no rental office…..in fact, there’s no running water anywhere on the mountain. It’s just awaiting your arrival and ready to go. Get your beacon, probe, and shovel ready as it’s needed by anyone that wants to enjoy some turns at Silverton. Once you have your lift ticket, you head down to the chair to get into 8 person groups and meet your guide for the day. This is when you can start to separate the OG’s from the newbies. You can join in groups that are “hike fast ski fast no lunch all work” all the way to “legit moderate slow hike with a lunch break.” The guides cover avalanche training and rescue, the aspects that make Silverton different, and what they expect to see that day on the mountain and in your runs. They are calculated extreme sherpa’s that will hold your hand the entire day from the first hike to the last turn. True mountain men 100 no doubt….We’d like to give a special thank you to all the guides we had this past weekend – Taylor, Jesse, Fabio, Skylar, and also a special shout out to Emma and Jen for all the love and insight at base camp.
After you find your group, cover the avalanache info, and meet everyone…it’s time to get hiking on the ridge for some turns. Some of the runs end with mandatory 50 foot airs over iced out waterfalls while others are 3000 vert of pure pow pasture. You can find your pleasure, adrenaline, and serenity all in the same run….as well as some “pucker” to make sure you know where you are! We had a blast hiking, climbing, and ripping the San Juans this weekend. Even without the best snow conditions we had pow, corn, and soft mush during every run. In fact, the heli drops were so nice that we didn’t even remember the hard pack from the morning run. This brings us to our next topic “heli drops” at Silverton.
It’s the best thing available in Colorado hands down. The runs are long, well pitched, and still soft with snow even during this year of drought. The guides are fantastic and show you some of the best scenery of the San Juans. At one point we were huddled against the edge of a 2000 foot cliff watching Fabio guide the heli into his lap as he sat on the cliff edge. He then slide over to us and said, “let’s go get some more pow!!” We’re sure the alpha male/female contest is a long one at Silverton with all the gangster billy goat guides taking down lines with ease.
Once you get back to the bottom there is a bus that picks you up to do it all over again…and again…and again. The guides will hike, rip, coach, help, and smile until your legs fall off. It’s what they enjoy and what makes Silverton the back country mecca that it has become today. “I remember doing the 2009 season at Silverton and I’ve never forgotten some of the runs, terrain, and people. Coming back this weekend really gave me a reality check about the mountains but also opened me up to the mountains for the first time since leaving Aspen in 2012. I’m blessed to see places like this and even more respectful that I get to ski them. Silverton Mountain is forever a part of that lifestyle,” said Hunt after the weekend at elevation.