Silverton Mountain Ski Resort may not be the first name you think of for world-class skiing, but if you're a serious or expert skier, perhaps it should be. This four-corners area resort is found north of Durango, within the San Juan National Forest. Ouray, Silverton, and Placerville form a triangle, with the better known Telluride in the middle of those points. Ouray has been quietly making tracks as the “Switzerland of America” for many years now. The dramatic and breathtaking views along the way have delighted visitors since the 1800's, and Native American tribes have visited the area for 10,000 years. But that still doesn't quite explain why Silverton doesn't get the press it so richly deserves.
To ski on Silverton Mountain is to, as they say, “Ride Colorado.” Steeper and seeper is another catchy extreme sports soundbyte. Ranked number one in the nation for steeps and for powder, experts and pros agree that Silverton is epic skiing. In part, because it was formed by skiers and snowboarders, rather than commercial investment designers. Here's what some have said about skiing the area.
"Silverton is a soulful touch of what the culture if skiing is truly about. Leaving behind the glitz and stepping into nature with a group of friends to overcome obstacles in a healthy environment. The beauty is in the simplicity of Silverton Mountain. It is a hut trip with a chairlift."
— Chris Anthony, Professional Skier | Vail, Colorado
"Silverton Mountain is pretty close to the most pure skiing experience one can find today, an epic mountain, bountiful snowfall (the deep and light Colorado kind!), and none of the distractions of other ski areas (crowds!) Silverton is like heli-skiing with a chairlift!”
— Chris Davenport, Professional Skier, Film Star, Red Bull Athlete | Aspen, Colorado.
If you have the ability, this ski area will challenge you. If you don't have the knowledge, skills, and abilities, you can obtain them through the Silverton Outdoor Learning and Recreation Center (SOLRC). This non-profit teaches experientially and directly, within the mountains. Beginners and intermediate skiers would be well advised to take careful appraisal of themselves and their abilities. This is real, backcountry skiing and while it is an awesome ride, skiing at this level defines “extreme sport.”
Just because people come here for the skiing, that doesn't mean you'll be suffering miserable food fare. The Brown Bear Cafe is a local favorite for meals, while the Silverton Brewery provides both ale and grub. There are other bars, restaurants and coffee houses, of course. If you're qualified, you already know the drill, so we won't bore you with tips about layering clothes, powder jackets, wind chill, frostbite, etc. Just come prepared and in decent shape and ready to have the time of your life.
A fairly small, but really extreme and wild resort, it is the highest snowboard area in North America with a peak of 13,487 feet and it is the steepest with no easy way down. The town actually recommends that you take Viagra to cope with the altitude! That’s an innovative use for it (and let’s spare the obvious jokes)! The single lift is capped at 475 people per day, which is about as many as go up Steamboat in ten minutes. There are rarely more than 80 people on the mountain at any one time. Their trails are rated 50 percent advanced and 50 percent for experts.
There are loads of bowls, chutes, cliffs and wonderful natural terrain features. There’s no park per se, but with the amount of features that exist on the mountain naturally, you’ll likely never miss a terrain park’s artificiality.
The Silverton and Ouray area is chock full of opportunities for fantastic winter fun, including cross-country skiing, fishing, horseback riding, ice skating, jeeping and off-road driving, mine tours, rock climbing, sledding, and snowmobiling. One of the first things many people do when they show up in Ouray is to contact Ouray Ice & Tower Rock Climbing School, Freelance Adventures or San Juan Mountain Guides and get some time on the absolutely incredible ice climb. Known as one of the most popular ice climbing locations on the planet, you’ll find over a mile of farmed ice on the Uncompahgre Gorge right in the middle of the town. If you’re in town for the Ouray Ice Festival, you can watch some of the world’s finest professionals performing climbs that expand the imagination. Check out the amazing suspension bridge that takes you right to the middle of a frozen waterfall at Box Canon Falls Park. Next, it’s time to warm up at the Ouray Hot Springs Pool, a gigantic 250’ x 150’ sulphur-free mineral hot springs with several soaking sections where temperatures vary from 96 to 106 degrees F. The pool has a lap swimming section, a diving area, a large slide, shallow section for the kiddies and even an area for water volleyball.
The Western Hotel & Saloon Restaurant is the best preserved historical building in Ouray and features fantastic food. The Outlaw Restaurant & Cookout has the best steaks in the county. When it’s time to hoist a few, check out Bistro at Billy Goat’s Gruff, which is a traditional European-style Biergarten transplanted to the Colorado Mountains. Buen Tiempo Mexican Restaurant & Cantina is your choice for giant margaritas and monster nachos. Ouray is a really family-friendly town, so it’s also great for the under 21 crowd.