Silverton 12/26/09

26 Dec, 2009

I have heard many stories of Silverton Mountain as its the only mountain in Colorado that offers a backcountry experience whether unguided or guided.  It’s not a resort because the only lines you’ll encounter are the ones you make on the mountain and with only one chairlift most of the mountain is earn your turns.  It’s not a mountain to take lightly, it’s 100% advanced and expert terrain.  I was nervous about making sure my riding was up to par for this mountain but I did find out I could handle it but it also pushed me hard.  Currently the mountain is unguided riding which means your life is in your friends hands if something goes wrong.  I went on the mountain with 3 skiers who have skied Silverton before and plenty of backcountry experience so I felt comfortable with them.

Upon arrival, we parked and made our way through the parking lot which barely had 20 cars there.  It was definitely a different experience to be at Silverton.  This whole vacation has been exactly what I needed, away from the resort towns which are jam packed with vacationers and just snowboarding.

I borrowed Josh’s beacon since I still haven’t bought one, but I own a shovel and probe so eventually I’ll get my own beacon to use.  Luckily it didn’t come in handy today on the mountain.

We walked up to the Yurt where we could buy our lift tickets ($49 for unguided right now), prove our backcountry gear to the woman behind the counter and sign our lives away on liability releases.  I’ve made it very clear to family if I die on the mountain, it was doing something that makes me happy and nothing can come from it.

The Yurt is the day lodge and quite comfortable

The biggest sign of what was to come was the liftie scanning my avalanche beacon before getting on the chairlift.  I had already showed the ticket office woman that I had a beacon, shovel and probe with me but this was the “ok here it goes” moment.  The chairlift wasn’t too bad but definitely not a chairlift for beginners (2 person, no bars and can be high off the ground in spots).

When the chairlift came above the trees, I was amazed at the powder and trees.  It was better than early morning powder days at the amount of open areas for turns still and we got there late at 11am.  Each run you could still see terrain that you just wanted to run and after one day, I didn’t even close to riding what the mountain offered but it was a good introduction to it.

I came up on the mountain with Leo, Brad and Tamara who are all two plankers.

Right as we got up, the heli was taking off for heli drops if you were willing to pay money.  It was tempting to have the experience but I’ll save it for another time.  I did get jealous later when I watched a skier come down on an opposite peak and get the nicest S turns down the slope.

I had the Malolo with me, but I ended up choosing next year’s Never Summer prototype to ride for the day.  It’s basically a upgraded Titan that I’ve been riding and it was ideal for today, floated and it took some rough rocky spots without too much damage.

Since the upper terrain would get closed first, we did the hardest riding on our first run with no warm up other than the hike up.  Breathing above 10,000 ft is tough as you hike up, no matter how good of shape you are in.  It was an amazing day, warm and bluebird on the mountain so I slowly made my way up and let the faster people hike on by.

We hiked up to Hollywood gates and they ended up hiking up as far up as they could, I found myself dropping in on Mandatory Air for my first run.  The sign warned of cliffs and the name of the run was hard to miss but I watched the boys drop in first and looked down the drop with full intent that I could do it.

I ended up dropping in and had to adjust to the heavier snow that was settled there, took a couple powder turns that reminded me of northwest snow and rode towards the trees like the boys had suggested.  The trees were a bit rougher but when they opened up to lower terrain, I found the best turns of the day at the bottom before the creek.

After adjusting to the mountain quickly (definitely not the groomers of Durango), I got to enjoy some good deep powder turns for most of the run.  It was the steepest powder riding I’ve done in a while and while they haven’t received new snow in the past 72 hours there were some great powder turns to be made on the mountain.  I can’t imagine a really good powder day here because today was pretty damn good.

The best part of the first run was looking back up at the terrain, seeing my line and knowing I just did that.

To get back to the road, I followed the cat track that comes out from the runs.  At the bottom was the shuttle to pick you up and take you back to the base of the area.

Last night in Silverton, I found out that Teddy (Omatic rider) and RC (Never Summer rider) were in town and going to eat pasta for Christmas dinner.   So they joined us for dinner at the Coleman family house for a yummy dinner, it was cool catching up with the guys and hearing about them making the switch to splitboarding the passes. They were on the mountain today but also joined by Ben from Transworld, Sam and another rider but I missed his name.

The second run we decided to drop in under the liftline for some turns before following a gully to the bottom.  The bottom portion was pretty tracked out but the banked turns were fun.  At the bottom of the run we crossed the creek and in snowboard boots, no problem but I couldn’t imagine ski boots on a slippery wood plank.

While waiting for the shuttle to pick us up, I had Tamara snap a photo of me.  I did wear my Bern helmet today to stay a bit safer on the mountain.

The last run of the day was my favorite, powder turns and tree riding at it’s best.  It reminded me of Washington, natural banked turns and trees that were a blast to ride through.

At the top I managed to get below Leo, Tamara and Brad to get some shots of them in the powder.  It was the last run and still good turns to be made on the mountain.  Here’s the shot of Leo coming through the powder and this is what today was like.

In this shot I’m standing on top of a dropped tree that was covered with snow and did my 3 foot drop off it.

We had  a short day on the mountain with only three runs which definitely felt like a lot more with the powder and big mountain riding.  We ended the day in the Yurt (aka bar, ticket office, day lodge) with brews.

I also left my mark at Silverton Mountain

I’m stoked that I was able to ride the mountain, enjoy the first big powder turns of the season and have a totally different experience in Colorado.  We all made it home safe from the mountain and I really look forward to coming back, riding more of the mountain and pushing myself even more as a rider.

About the author


From the beginning of time, I was Shannon. From the beginning of snowboarding, I was Shay. From the beginning of online communities, I was Shayboarder. In the end, I’m the writer, photographer, editor, publisher, guru of sorts, product tester, curvy girl, and most importantly the snowboarder behind it all. Follow me on this journey through snowboarding, mountain biking, traveling and fun experiences!

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  1. Fes
    December 26, 2009

    Wow. And this is exactly why I’ve been jonesing for a trip there. 🙂

  2. Bob
    December 26, 2009

    Thanks for the write-up Shay. Nice to hear the perspective of someone who doesn’t claim to be the gnarest of the gnar. I’ve got to get myself down there. Seems stupid to live in CO and not make the drive.

  3. JT
    December 26, 2009

    Dear lord am I jealous!!!! We should all plan another trip there sometime!

  4. December 26, 2009

    Fes, most definitely.

    Bob, I consider myself intermediate-advanced rider and there’s no easy runs on this mountain, definitely pushed my riding. I had some moments where I had to sideslip to get out of a tough spot and I had to be aware of tree wells plus basic backcountry knowledge helped but even I felt out of my league…luckily my riding held up for the day and I didn’t push it to prove anything. Definitely worth riding but make sure you go with people who are skilled and can save your life if shit goes wrong.

    JT, good trip. I’ll definitely be back but I only rode it because I had friends who knew it and had backcountry experience especially since it’s unguided right now.

  5. December 27, 2009

    Silverton is legit. One of my favourite places on earth.

    NB If you’re not an experienced backcountry rider and even if you are, I’d recommend going during guided season. You’ll get more out of the mountain, they’ll find you fresh tracks almost guaranteed and you can relax a little more on some of those hairball hikes. If you can get Skylar as your guide prepare to have the time of your life. Nicest guy ever and he absolutely shreds w/o worrying if someone is taking his picture etc. Great crew up there.

  6. Alex
    December 27, 2009

    Silverton is my favorite place on Earth – i have twice made the pligramidge from the UK.

    Agree with Colin that going guided, or at the least with people who know the resort will make your trip worth while.

  7. December 27, 2009

    I’m definitely gonna go back during guided to get the full experience there and i’ve heard a lot of great things about Skylar so hopefully meet him one day.

  8. gags
    December 28, 2009

    Way happy you got to ride there Shay…I’m planning on another trip this spring for sure……I need that new sticker!

  9. December 28, 2009

    Gags! Sick I’m hoping to make it down again, so if you guys go down let me know and I’d be up! I’ve got plenty of the black and white sticker, so I’ll make sure to send you a couple!

  10. carl
    December 28, 2009

    Shay–have you thought about taking a backcountry course? Relying on people to save your ass works both ways–and another voice in the discussion always helps for smart decisions, even in places like silverton where it gets skied pretty often.

    PS Skylar is rad and will get you where you need to be.

  11. December 28, 2009

    Carl, I took the friends of berthoud pass basic course but haven’t taken the on-snow portion other than training with friends and practicing with a beacon. I definitely need to though. I’ve stayed out of the backcountry unless I’m with friends who know the area and with the right gear but definitely if I go more into it, I’d take the courses.

  12. December 29, 2009

    Just checked out the Silverton website. That place looks sick! Would love to go sometime.

  13. December 30, 2009

    Wow….I realized I was grinning ear to ear while reading this. Too bad I’m stuck in Michigan. 🙁