Silverton Mountain Colorado
At Silverton Mountain ski area in Colorado it’s all thrills, no frills and plenty of spills (as their logo seems to suggest)! Silverton is for advanced and expert riders only, and it’s really only suited to those with an adventurous spirit because it’s very rough around the edges. Silverton Mountain has some similarities to the New Zealand club ski fields
, with no crowds, a relaxed vibe, limited infrastructure, and plenty of awesome powder and terrain for taking.
Silverton Ski and Snowboard Terrain
The 1,819 acres (736 hectares) of in-bounds terrain is serviced by one chair lift, an old relic retired from Mammoth Mountain
in California. The other “lift” is an old bus that is used to return skiers from the backside to the base area. From the top of the chairlift at 12,300 feet there’s hiking along a ridge up to 13,487 feet that enables access to a huge variety of lines. Silverton is a humbling mountain, if not for your ability, at least for your fitness level!
The terrain includes open alpine bowls, chutes, drop-offs, and lots of steep tree skiing. The challenging slopes are not manicured, so if you lose your nerve there are no groomed runs on which to bail out. Considering the slow chairlift, the degree of hiking, and the potential wait for the bus, guests may only get 4 to 5 runs a day. At Silverton the aim is for quality not quantity.
The snow falls in abundance at Silverton with an average of 10.2 metres (400 inches) per season. And as is typical of Colorado, the powder is light and dry. Better still, there are low numbers of visitors each day, so the likelihood of skiing fresh powder is pretty high. Thursdays in particular can be epic if it’s been snowing early in the week because Silverton is only open Thursday to Sunday.
The high altitude assists in keeping the snow in great condition. The only downside is that at these dizzying heights, the altitude may either reduce your perceived fitness level, or there’s the risk of altitude sickness
. The Silverton website suggests the use of Viagra to assist in minimising the risk, and whilst there is some emerging research literature supporting its efficacy, I sure don’t want to be skiing with anyone who’s had the little blue pill!
Guided, Unguided and Heli Skiing at Silverton
For most of the season, only guided skiing is available with a capped number of guests per day. Riders are put into groups of up to 8 with standard guiding, or private guiding is also available.
Early and late in the season, unguided skiing is also a possibility. During these off-peak times, it’s still possible to get guiding with the added benefit that the guides will take you beyond the unguided boundaries.
The other option is Silverton heli skiing
. This is good for those who want the backcountry fresh tracks experience, but want to save some energy for riding down the hill rather than hiking up. Packages available include single runs or a 6 run day. Heli accessed ski touring is also available.
Where is Silverton?
Silverton Mountain is located in the San Juan Mountains of southwest Colorado. The Silverton Mountain ski area is 6 miles from the town of Silverton. Silverton is about 50 miles north of Durango (and the closest airport) and only 30 minutes from Durango Mountain Resort
(Purgatory Ski Area). Telluride ski resort
is not far away as the crow flies, but it’s about 75 minutes away by road (and incredibly far away from Silverton in the glamour stakes!).
There is no lodging at the Silverton Mountain ski area, but there is inexpensive Silverton hotel
and motel accommodation in the nearby historic town. Don’t have high expectations of the mining town of Silverton being party central. With a population of about 500 people, it’s small and sort of cute, and thankfully there are no longer lewd women hanging around Blair Street!
When it comes to the facilities at Silverton Mountain, you should also keep your expectations really low. The facilities are housed in an old school bus and a big tent, and they make the day lodges of the New Zealand club fields look opulent. A basic sack lunch is sold at Silverton, but otherwise there are no dining facilities available, unless you call chocolate bars and packets of chips “dining”. In addition to renting avalanche safety equipment and backpacks, they also have powder skis and boards for hire.
Why Ski or Snowboard at Silverton, Colorado?
The fame of Silverton Mountain increased as a result of Project X where Shaun White had a half pipe purpose built for his pre-Olympics training. However you definitely don’t go to Silverton Mountain for the freestyle action.
You go to Silverton Mountain because of the snow and the terrain, but keep in mind that the experience isn’t for everyone. About 5% of first-timers will hate it. About 15% will enjoy the adventure but never return. The remaining 85% will become addicted to Silverton Mountain, a ski area where it’s truly all about the skiing and where you don’t have to share the powder with the hordes. Wondering why that doesn’t add up to 100%? At that altitude, Silverton Mountain does funny things to your cognitive skills!
We have awarded Silverton Mountain with 5 out of 5 as a powderhound ski area. However if it becomes any trendier and more punters visit to prove they’ve got balls, the lure of Silverton may not be as great.
See our powderhounds ratings
document for more information on how Silverton scores on various factors.
Tours that include Silverton Ski Area