The Silver Couloir on Colorado’s Buffalo Mountain can’t be considered remote or obscure. The prominent line that cuts nearly 3,000 vertical feet down the mountain’s north face hits westbound drivers’ eyes almost immediately after exiting the long and dark Eisenhower Tunnel. It’s featured in the book “The 50 Classic Ski Descents of North America,” and on any given spring weekend after the first proper melt/freeze cycle, there are likely to be 10 to 50 people ascending the mountain in hopes of bagging the line.
Even with this popularity, Silver Couloir is still very dangerous. The line has two prominent avalanche start zones that funnel into a tight, rock-walled terrain trap before spilling out into dense forest below. Seemingly ever-present winds keep the top part of the descent cold and hard for much of the spring, but the bottom of the line faces east and heats up quickly. This makes the timing for the line tricky because waiting for a corn cycle at the top could lead to wet slides at the bottom.
Additionally, because the couloir ends before reconnecting with an established trail, there is an infamous traverse below numerous avalanche paths to reconnect with the route that leads back to the parking lot.
I skied this line over a decade ago and can remember trying to figure out the traverse while constantly keeping one eye on the mountain. While looking for roller balls and other indications of wet slides above, I remember feeling like the traverse out was scarier than the descent.
Enter Gaia GPS
A few weeks ago, I joined a group of three friends to ski the couloir. Considering my previous experience, I decided to test the Gaia GPS mapping tool before, during, and after the mission in hopes of mitigating certain risks throughout the day.