Silverton Mountain is unlike any other ski resort in the country. Opened in 2002, Silverton offers just one chairlift to access its 1,819 acres of snowfields. The chairlift unloads at the top of a beautiful cirque, which provides easy hiking along a ridge. Amazing ski lines drop off in every direction with terrain catering entirely to the advanced and expert skier, and to those who enjoy adventure.
"The drive up the long, winding dirt road to a small parking area next to a double chair and military barrack was climactic knowing we were about to access some of the biggest terrain most will ever know," skier, Jeff Price described.
Silverton provides guided only skiing during the height of the season, and during early and late times of year it allows unguided skiing. Avalanche gear is required to ride the lift at all times. An avalanche beacon, probe poll, and shovel include the necessary equipment, and are available for rental at the mountain. Liability releases are also mandatory for all participants.
"After our waivers were signed, we split into slow and fast groups, and got a once-over from our guide, Chris," Price continued. "He took us on a backside run straight off the lift to make sure we were as legit as we seemed." Unguided skiing begins Dec. 4, 2010 for early season. Silverton offers unguided skiing on Saturdays and Sundays throughout December, and then opens for its normal Thursday through Sunday operation starting December 23. Unguided skiing reopens April 1 through 17 when the mountain closes for the season. Guides are available for those who want guided skiing at this time. Guides can take skiers beyond the unguided boundaries. Silverton caps the amount of unguided skiers to less than 475 a day with most days having less than 80 skiers on the mountain. Unguided skiing prices are $49 lift ticket, $99 for an all-day guide (per person) and lift ticket, and $35 for a single-guided run with lift ticket.
Guided skiing starts Jan. 13, 2011 and runs through March 27 operating Thursday through Sundays. Total skiers on Silverton Mountain are capped at 80 per day. Each guided group are formed at the start of each day and include eight skiers or less. Expect a 5-10 minute hike to ski runs, although some lines drop straight from the lift. Hiking 15 minutes to an hour allows access to large open bowls and steep, tight chutes. Expect to get in anywhere from 3-6 runs during a day (roughly 10,000+ vertical). The $139 price includes guide and lift service.
"All said and done, my experience was unforgettably awesome," Price said. "Great guide, good snow, and all-time terrain...I personally had a life changing experience there and cannot wait to go back with cash in my pocket to pay for some heli drops."
Unguided reservations are not necessary, but are recommended if traveling from afar. Guided reservations close 24 hours before the ski day. Silverton is the only ski town in Colorado where winter is the off-season. This means that lodging and food is discounted or offered at off-season rates during the ski season.
"I found out that a taste of the Silverton goods tasted really good, and I'm craving some more exotic San Juan flavor," Price concluded.