I was supposed to be skiing waist-deep, fluffy pow this morning. Forecasters were predicting snow in feet! But instead, there was rain in the valley and nasty wind.  I think the snow line starts at about 7,000 feet but the wind shut down the lifts so I decided it was a good opportunity to update the blog. Though rain is depressing in December, I remembered I did have a fantastic couple of powder days earlier this month. I just had to travel 12 hours to do so.

Silverton Mountain Colorado

My boyfriend claims to have a Ph. D in powder. He grew up skiing in New England and moved west after high school so I guess he does know what he’s talking about, so when he said Silverton was the only place in the lower 48 getting snow we kind of had to go. I often get left behind on these ski road trips, but I guess I’m improving and got the green light to hit the road with the bros.

Silverton is different than most mountains. There’s only one small lift and is open Thursday’s through Sundays. In mid-January it’s only open for guided skiing. Earlier in the season it’s open for those who can go un-guided. Basically our timing was perfect. We left Wednesday morning right after Silverton got a 14-inch dump and arrived for the week’s opening cycle Thursday morning. Shannon, our friend Chuckles and me drove to Salt Lake City where we met up with Seth who brought along his snowmobile then continued to southwest Colorado.

This is how we got to Silverton

There’s no lodge, just a cold tent where you fill out a waiver saying you are an expert skier and won’t sue them if you die. The life operator checks to see if your beacon is on and you have to carry a shovel and probe to ski there.I was getting nervous. Silverton is in the heart of the San Juan mountains and I heard while I was there San Juan was Spanish for “sketchy.” The Colorado snowpack is scary and avalanche danger is usually high. They control the avy danger at Silverton by ski-cutting runs and throwing bombs out of helicopters to get avalanches to slide, so as long as we didn’t venture out of bounds we were pretty safe.  But there are tight trees, rocks and couloirs. It was -12 or something that morning but as I rode the chair lift up my palms were sweating. I was also excited though. Shannon is a professional guide and really does put safety first. He’s seen it all and makes good decisions. Plus he’s spent a lot of time in this region before he moved to the Tetons. He even has a mining claim near Silverton so he knows the region well. Still, I wasn’t sure what I was getting into. These weren’t going to be the gentle powder fields of Targhee. I’ve put in some time at Jackson and on steeper runs so I had some confidence. The first run was great, the pow was blower and we didn’t ski anything too far out my comfort level. The next run we decided to hike. I had no idea what we would be skiing, but was feeling good. We hiked up the ridge with about 100 other people. I stepped off the boot-pack a lot. I guess most of these people were used to hiking around at 12,000 feet but I was going slow and steady.

Taking it in

After about 30 minutes we decided to drop into a run called Rope-de-Dope 1 (I think.) The run would require dropping into steep couloir, but it looked wide enough for me to handle. I thought about turning around, but really the boot pack back down would be scarier than skiing. Shannon dropped in first and said he would wait for me around the bottom of some cliffs. I knew I had to follow him and not wait. The longer I waited the more scared I would get. Plus there were two girls standing at the top with me and I couldn’t let them drop in before me. I didn’t have style, but I skied it slow and without falling and made it to where Shannon was waiting. I had to catch my breath and wait for my knees to stop shaking and heart to stop pounding. The rest of the way down was a lot easier and I felt good. I was kind of auditioning for Alaska. If I could hang at Silverton there’s a better chance Shannon will take me to AK.

Scared but mission accomplished. You can't see exactly were I skied down, but it was lookers left of those rocks.

 

 

The rest of the way down

 

 

 

 

At Silverton you can basically ski 360 off the top and that lead you to a road at the bottom. Then an old school bus picks you up and takes you to the base area and the chairlift.

The other shuttle is an old UPS truck.

We ate some lunch and then only did one more lift-served run after that. It’s exhausting hiking around at high elevation this early in the season. We met back up with Seth, Chuckles and our other friend Daniel who showed up from Tahoe. He’s been skiing man-made snow next to grass in California. He put his wife and daughter on a plane to Philly for Christmas and made the trek to the San Juans too. Crazy what we do for a pow-fix.

We cracked open some beers in the parking lot and decided to take a snowmobile run to finish the day. There are old mining roads everywhere in this part of Colorado so it’s easy sled-ski access. We all got in a bonus run and called it a day. We’d spend the next day sled skiing.

I shuttled a run for the boys.

We had perfect, sunny, cold weather so the snow quality stayed good and we had good visibility. We spent Friday in Minihaha basin and skied short runs back to road, then used the snowmobile to get back to the top.

There are old mining cabins all over the place and some local Colorado ski bums have taken over one of them in basin. It was stocked with a stove, wood, food and even dog food. On Thursday one of the locals was sled-skiing that afternoon too. He was bummed out because he had a ski-date the next day and wasn’t going to be able to come back. Poor guy. On Friday we had the place mostly to ourselves.

Miners cabin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now I’m back in the Tetons waiting for conditions to turn as good as they were in Silverton. It might not even happen this year, you never know. It’s all part of the fun!

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