Silverton Lifts & Terrain

Our Terrain Ratings

Powderhound rating = advanced/expert terrain + powder + freshies + uncrowded

Our Terrain Ratings

Powderhound rating = advanced/expert terrain + powder + freshies + uncrowded

  • Vertical (ft)
    10,500 – 12,300 (1,900)
  • Average Snow Fall
    400 inches
  • Lifts (1)
    1 double
  • Ski Season
    late Nov to mid Apr
  • Terrain Summary
    Beginner - 0%
    Intermediate - 0%
    Advanced - 0%
    Expert - 100%

Silverton Ski and Snowboard Terrain

Silverton Mountain has some similarities to backcountry skiing: hiking, challenging terrain, no groomers, no cut runs, and plenty of fresh powder. The main difference is that Silverton Mountain is partly lift serviced, avalanche controlled and fresh tracks are not necessarily guaranteed. Also at only 1,819 acres (736 hectares) the inbounds terrain at Silverton is obviously much smaller than the backcountry.

There has been an avalanche of media hype associated with the steep terrain at Silverton and a lot of debate about whether the actual experience matches the publicity. The image Silverton Mountain tries to portray is summed up by their logo that shows someone tumbling down the mountain and their bumper stickers “Got balls? Ski Silverton”. We definitely saw some bloodied faces from tumbles (perhaps they skied down Scarface?), and advanced riders will certainly need balls. Expert riders will be challenged by the steep and technical runs, and some of the couloirs and cliff bands fall into the insane category.

In addition to the cliffs and chutes that fan into steep wide bowls, the terrain includes lots of tree runs of varied spacing. Depending on the time of season and the recency of snowfall, unfortunately there are also mogul runs sometimes. It can be very disappointing to go for a hike only to ski bumps!

The general rule applies as with any other ski area that the further you hike, the better the snow quality. A few runs require no hiking, and about 20% of the terrain can be accessed with only a 5 to 10 minute hike. However most of the lines require a 30-50 minute trek up a ridge. You’ll need to be super keen, as at altitudes of over 13,000 feet (almost 4,000 metres) if you’re not acclimatised to these dizzying heights you may feel like you’re breathing through a straw.

At the bottom of some of the runs there’s also the potential for another 10 minute tramp, but at least the altitude is much lower. At the base of many runs, a creek crossing is required and unfortunately the water isn’t frozen. They sell ski socks in the tent in case you’re one of the many people that end up in the drink!

With all this walking and swimming it’s not surprising that it’s not possible to get that much ski vertical per day. The slow lift and a wait for the bus also contributes to the limited time for skiing. Slow hikers will probably get in 4 runs, whilst sprinters may get 6 runs if they’re lucky. Runs range from 1,900 to 3,087 feet of vertical.

Silverton Lifts The lift starts running at 9am and closes at 3pm. The antique double chair lifts skiers up only 60 percent of the vertical of the ski area. After that there’s a magic carpet that takes you the rest of the way. That’s of course if you paid the extra money for a Silverton heli skiing ride, otherwise you’ll be trudging up the boot pack with everyone else!

The other “lift” is an old bus that does pick-ups to bring skiers from the backside trail to the base area. There’s generally only a short wait for the bus, but during peak times in the unguided season you may have to wait up to 15 minutes. And when it’s busy you’ll be packed in the bus like sardines!

Guided Skiing

Most of the ski season is guided only skiing. Standard guiding is undertaken in groups of up to 8, the format of which is decided in the car park in a fairly haphazard manner. During the day the makeup of the groups may change to better suit the speed of the individuals, but there is a chance you’ll end up in a group that’s not quite ideal for your needs. At least the guides can flexibly cater for different ability levels and provide slightly different lines.

Unguided Ski Season

The unguided ski season is during the off-peak time with the dates varying a little from year to year. This is a popular option as a lift ticket is very cheap. During this time, guided skiing is still available and there is roped off terrain only accessible to the guided riders. It is highly recommended that you get a guide unless you have skied Silverton previously or are an incredibly proficient skier or boarder.

Avalanche Briefing and Safety Considerations

With steep terrain and abundant snow, avalanche risk is ever present. The terrain is somewhat controlled for avalanches through blasting and area closures. Nevertheless all skiers and riders are required to carry avalanche safety gear. If you don’t have your own equipment, the ski area rents this out.

The morning commences with a short safety briefing about avalanches and how to switch the avalanche beacon between send and receive, but nothing else about how to use the equipment.

Snow

Silverton doesn’t have a large snow safety team, so it can take them some time to get areas open after a dump. Whilst this can be frustrating that all terrain isn’t open on Thursdays, the up side is that new terrain typically opens up each day which provides freshies!

The likelihood of skiing fresh powder is variable. Like anywhere it depends on the recency of snowfall and how many others have been ripping it up. At least the number of visitors each day is significantly lower than other ski areas, so the snow quality is typically pretty good.

Silverton are very proud of their annual snowfall, although there are rumours that they embellish their snow reports.

Skiing for Beginners, Intermediates and the Family

There is absolutely no terrain whatsoever for beginner and intermediate skiers at Silverton Mountain. The town of Silverton has a little ski hill, Kendall Mountain, that is perfect for the kids. Alternatively, Durango Mountain Resort is only half an hour south which is family oriented and has lots of green and blue trails.

Parks & Pipes

Freestylers will be saddened to find that there is no terrain park or half pipe at Silverton, unless of course you’re Shaun White and have a half pipe built for you by Red Bull!

Advanced Skiing

The Silverton Mountain terrain is really only suitable for strong advanced skiers and boarders who feel very comfortable skiing double black diamond runs. It is recommended that advanced skiers hire a guide during the unguided season.

Expert Ski and Snowboard Terrain

Silverton Mountain terrain is nirvana for experts, with runs varying from your average double black diamond trails to triple blacks and insane extreme runs. Knock yourself out!

Heli Skiing

Silverton Heli Skiing is a relatively new venture for the mountain. Single runs are reasonably inexpensive but there's also the cost of a lift ticket as you’ll have to catch the lift (and possibly the bus). This is perfect for those who want more fresh powder and a little rest from hiking. However this is not ideal for the completely lazy powder hound, as there’s a good chance you’ll have to hike for 5-10 minutes from the top of the lift to the heli landing zone.

A 6 run package is also on offer which eliminates the need to repetitively ride the lift and bus. The terrain size is tiny relative to other USA heli skiing and BC heli skiing operators, but with only a few people taking up the privilege, it’s unlikely that the area would get tracked out.

See our review of Silverton Heli Skiing for more information.