Hank Pantier

Striking Gold in Silverton

Hank Pantier
Striking Gold in Silverton

By Kalen Thorien, SmartWool Athlete

A few years ago I had my first experience skiing in New Zealand and I quickly fell in love with the simplicity of their resorts and freedom to roam the surrounding mountains. A concept that is very much lost in the United States, you can believe it was a blessing to come across a place like Silverton Mountain. Owners Aaron and Jenny Brill created Silverton based off of the the kiwi ski fields: one lift whose sole purpose is to get you closer to your objective and then you put in the work. Silverton’s easiest runs are what most resorts consider double black diamonds. There are no groomed trails and half the season is closed off to guided trips only. Basically, when you go there you’re guaranteed fresh tracks, tough terrain, and very few people.

Grayson Schaffer from Outside Magazine hit me up to come down after Christmas for a week to ski Silverton and the surrounding backcountry. When you arrive in Silverton, it’s not your typical Colorado ski town. Abandoned BBQ joints and dilapidated hotels take the place of Gucci and Prada stores. Wood smoke hovers above the streets and a few neon “Open” signs indicate some type of life. You quickly get the impression that the people who live here have a deep love for the mountains…or their car broke down and they just ended up staying. Like the resort itself, the town is simple, down to earth, and authentic.

The week would see a plethora of deep pow, sunny days, chilling winds, steep lines, and endless tree skiing. Early mornings dotted with pink clouds on the high ridgelines were enough to warm the heart even though the toes were numb. Bottomless pow on the various passes enclosing Silverton allow for safe options in perfectly spaced trees while the looming high alpine teases the imagination and feeds the hunger for even the most aggressive skiers. You come here to get strong. You come here to test your abilities. You come here to experience skiing at its most raw. It’s perfection nestled in a forgotten range.

All photos by Grayson Schaffer www.graysonschaffer.com