Inside Line: Silverton, CO - Ski Mag

Inside Line: Silverton, CO

It has just one lift. So technically, it's a ski resort. But that's where the similarities end.
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Silverton, CO

It has just one lift. So technically, it's a ski resort. But that's where the similarities end. Silverton Mountain is a backcountry "ski area" spread over 1,600 acres of ungroomed wilderness deep in southern Colorado's San Juans.

Elevation: 12,300 feet (hike to: 13,487) Vertical Drop: 1,900 feet (hike for: 3,087) Snowfall: 425 inches Getting There: Silverton is 58 miles north of Durango on Highway 550; the ski area is 10 minutes north of town. Info: 970-387-5706; silvertonmountain.com, silverton.org (lodging).

THE BETA: Silverton redefines the notion of what a ski area is: There aren't any cut trails, you ski with guides in groups of six, and avalanches are a real threat. The experience is more heli-skiing than resort skiing, but instead of dropping $800, you ride an old double chairlift all day for $99. You'll need a shovel, probe, transceiver, and the skills to use them on these 13,000-plus-foot peaks. But the snowpack has been heavily bombed by patrol, so you can breathe a little easier-when you aren't choking on all the powder, that is.

POWDER DAY
Drag your guide to the back side for a 200-foot-wide, 42-degree screamer called Riff. Don't feel the powder panic-there's more where that came from. Silverton averages about 20 skiers a day, which, given the skier-to-terrain ratio, means there are 80 bountiful acres with your name on them.

3 DAYS LATER
Silverton's north-facing spruce forests hold powder for weeks, but to avoid aimless bushwhacks, get Aaron Brill (owner, manager, janitor, guide) to show you String, a sheltered cache only he can find.

SPRING DAY
Find corn in Storm Peak's couloirs. The Riding Punch it down Ropedeedope, a 2,200-vertical-foot natural terrain park that traces a series of gullies and steep walls. Along the way are half a dozen wind lips worth launching.

THE RIDING
Punch it down Ropedeedope, a 2,200-vertical-foot natural terrain park that traces a series of gullies and steep walls. Along the way are half a dozen wind lips worth launching.

PROVING GROUNDS
Marquee Route: Hike 25 minutes to Rocky IV, a 3,000-vertical-foot couloir that plummets down a 45- to 50-degree pitch. Check your speed before the mandatory 10-footer: It's followed by a maze of rocks and a slot canyon so narrow you'll feel like a chubby Santa in a skinny chimney. Off-Broadway: Traverse into Nightmare, a spider's web of 28 hairball chutes below 13,487-foot Storm Peak.

BACKCOUNTRY ACCESS
Ride the lift.

DRINKING & DANCING
You can drink at the Miner's Tavern (970-387-5560) in downtown Silverton, but dance at your own risk-the secondhand smoke could bog down an iron lung. Better yet, stop in at the Explorer's Club (970-387-5006); they have Guinness on tap and a self-service grill to throw a steak on while you tune your skis on their waxing bench.

FUEL
Bring sandwiches in case nothing's open (it happens), but you can usually grab a coffee and a berry scone at The Avalanche (970-387-5282). After skiing, carbo-load on Italian at Pasta la Vista (970-387-5352).

DIGS
For a warm yet spartan room, head to The Triangle on Greene Street ($35; 970-387-5780). The Alma House offers Victorian-style rooms and homemade breakfasts ($79; 970-387-5336).

MUST-KNOW
Sign up for Silverton's monthly one-day avalanche course. There's no better classroom than the unstable snowpack of the San Juans. Consider it hands-on training: It's your life, in your hands ($120, including your lift pass).

Been there? Going there? Sound off at skiingmag.com/insideline

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The Subaru North American Freeskiing Championships were held at Kirkwood, California on Sunday, Feb 27th and Monday, Feb 28th—two beautiful bluebird days after a storm

Inside Line: Kirkwood, CA

Kirkwood is off the grid in more ways than one. The whole place runs on generators. Lift lines are six people deep on a powder day. Sierra storms fill the ski-porn-worthy terrain, closing roads and shutting down lifts for days. But with inbounds runs slanted up to 42 degrees, the most reliable snow in the area, and chutes that make big-mountain skiers queasy, it’s hard to believe the resort stays so low-key. Thank the hourlong drive from South Lake Tahoe’s packed casinos and resorts, which ensures Kirkwood remains unsullied by the masses. Just the way skiers there like it.

#13: YOU SURVIVED SILVERTON MOUNTAIN.

Silverton Mountain

The experience is more heli-skiing than resort skiing, but instead of dropping $800, you ride an old double chairlift all day for $99.