Posted by: martinworster | September 13, 2007

74. SILVERTON

Taking the absolute piste in Colorado…or not as the case may be.

Click to enlarge!Had my first fix of backcountry snowboarding adventure this winter at a new place called Silverton, which is in Colorado near to Durango. It was the New York Times article that first drew our attention to it promising the ‘steepest terrain’ and ‘extreme powder action’ in a gorgeous setting not for the ‘feint hearted,’. It sounded awesome and worth investigating.

Click to enlarge!I hasten to call this place a resort. It’s not. There is one lift up the mountain and you are required to have guides to show you the different routes down the un-pisted slopes. You have to take avalanche transceivers, shovels and probes up the hill. There are no amenities on the mountain apart from a basic tent at the bottom of the slope serving micro brewery beers and not too much else. Back to basics would be an exaggeration. It’s not a Val D’Isere type motorway piste, ski right into your chalet at the end of the day type place. And that’s precisely the point. It is a back to the basic, no frills, extreme mountain, not for the beginner type joint. You could tell by the all the grizzly dudes lined up on the first morning we arrived this was a moutain lovers kinda place.

A lot of the better runs require long hikes once you have got to the top of the lift, some of them being quite extreme, and at altitude it’s not an easy task. At least it wasn’t for me, I was wheezing like the smoker of fifteen years that I am. But the bigger the hike, the higher the reward for fresh, untracked powder, inspirational views and steep descents. We did narrow chutes, pillows, tree lines, ridges in a scenery that was more Alpine than anywhere else I have experienced thus far in North American.

The guides are extremely knowledgable and the fresh lines of powder are rationed out between the different groups, so it’s not a free for all of rushing up to the top to get fresh tracks as you zig zag across the virgin snow and mash it up for everyone else. How steep do you want to go? How deep do you want to go? I’m still savouring the memories of the crispy air, the fluff of fresh power, the blue skies, the sun breaking through the fresh smelling pine trees and my acheing limbs telling me how far I’ve pushed it.

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