For the 2018/2019 season, Silverton Mountain may very well have offered the best deal in skiing. For a limited time this summer, they offered Unguided Season passes for $149. The month long unguided season from mid-March to mid-April would be worth it alone, but the additional perks, including 42 days at partner resorts, puts the value out of this world. Also included is discounted guided skiing and one $39 heli-drop, however on a standby basis only.
With over two feet of new snow moving into opening weekend and forecasted clearing skies, we saw a pretty stellar day lining up. With no guarantee, we rolled the dice and drove 325 miles to see if luck was on our side.
It was -15F degrees when we woke up in our sleeping bags in the car park. The air was crisp but the wind was still, and the sun was coming over the San Juans. The sky was a deep blue with not a cloud in the sky.
The cold snow reflected light like thousands of tiny mirrors as it crunched beneath your feet.
We sat in the tent, keeping warm by the fire and while groups were made, we experienced an array of anticipation, excitement, doubt and nerviness. Lucky us, our names were called and not only were we put in a group, we nabbed the last two available seats on the helicopter! And for the cherry on top, the group we were placed in included a photographer with his gear and a killer attitude in tow!
We started with a quick lap on Tiger 1. The snow in the first 1/3 was excellent, cold, consolidated and begging to be torn apart. As we approached the confluence of the bowl, the drainage was half tracked and half full of avy debris. There were some fresh turns on the edge of the trees if willing to tip-toe around, however plenty of rocks to keep you on those toes.
Next, we got into 1/4 Track. The trees were deep and untracked but fallen logs made it a technical ride. Reading the snow for buried obstacles and combining little ollies and quick turns proved to be key. The trees opened up into a couple small pillowy sections for some mellow airs. Getting into the denser trees towards the bottom allowed for additional fresh tracks.
On the third lap, we went off the back into Cabin. There was some really good snow in the bowl below the ridge, easily two feet deep. The cover on the steep roll at the top was thin and the rocks below were sharp. Again, avy debris needed to be avoided at the bottom but there were some additional deep turns to be had.
Finally, we took the lift to load into the heli. A quick one-minute flight and we were on an adjacent peak with a brand new perspective of these awe-inspiring mountains. It was late in the day and the sun wasn’t far from setting behind Silverton. The pitch was about 35 degrees, steep enough for a bit of speed, in a gully with a long, 400-yard rippable wall – a regular foot’s fantasy line. A quick setup turn and a few quick pumps to keep a high line led to a couple opportunities to bury the rail.
It’s not all that often the white room turns gold. Your feet disappear although you can continue feeling them float above solid ground as you pass through the disco ball of a cloud you just created and the sun illuminates each displaced flake. Silverton once again provides the special moments that do not get forgotten.