Are You Ready for Silverton?

January 2007

The New York Times devotes some serious space today to skiing in Silverton, Colorado. For those of you who haven't been there, Silverton is about a two hour drive from Telluride. There the comparisons end.

This six-year-old, vertigo-inducing backcountry "ski area" in the San Juan mountains of southwest Colorado that scoffs at niceties like slope grooming (and running water, but we'll get to that) has a way of quickly separating, with the deftness of a croupier, the rippers from the gapers, the noobs and the one-and-done's (but we'll get to them, too). Acre for acre, it's the most challenging lift-skiing in North America.

Silverton is only open four days a week, it has a single chairlift and virtually no amenities. You have to ski with a guide until April 5. The total number of skiers per day: between 50 and 80. Alex, one of the ski guides, tells his group:

"Silverton Mountain is unlike anything you've ever skied," he begins. "Everything we're going to ski today is some version of an avalanche path." The Talk goes on like this. Listen to my directions all the time, he says. We're 90 minutes from the nearest hospital, and probably three hours away when you figure in a rescue, so dial back your skiing accordingly. If you get caught in an avalanche, swim. Alex never smiles during the Talk.

Granted, I'm not a skier, let alone an extreme sports-person, but this is one terrifying article. Then again, maybe that's the point: to keep people fearful enough to stay away.