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On January 29th I received an email from notorious Yobeat commenter and intern guide at Silverton Mountain in Colorado, KC Kyle.
“Brooke. Get to Silverton ASAP…. over 50” since last saturday. Mark Landvick and Pat Moore were here today just checking stuff out. Blew their minds.”
This season I have made it a goal to snowboard as much as possible, which for a questionably-employed person such as me is easier said than done. I’m shooting for 100 days (no bragging), which may be unrealistic while simultaneously running the Internet, but whatever, I’m going for it. So when this email arrived as I was boarding a plane for Denver, I couldn’t resist. My response was simply an itinerary for a flight to Durango with the cautionary note, “be careful what you wish for.”
Just in case you don’t know anything about Silverton, this video featuring Shaun White should explain it.
Phew, that saved me a lot of words. And it was pretty much like that, except it felt less staged and people were drinking more beer than Red Bull — for the record even 3.2 Coors Light is strong at 11,000 feet. Life in the Colorado wilderness (and it is remote as fuck) is far from easy, but that’s just the way the locals like it. It keeps out the riff raff, which in hindsight, is amazing they invited me in the first place!
The real deal at Silverton Mountain is this: don’t be an idiot. It’s not a cushy “resort,” and the town itself is more of a summer attraction. In the winter it’s just a few die hards, some ice climbers and the staff of Silverton Mountain. If you have a sled there’s no shortage of gnarly backcountry terrain, but the avalanche danger is high and the hero factor even higher.
The first night, Kyle had me convinced I would probably die. He didn’t say it in so many words, but tales of an avalanche that day (by some people skiing away from the resort), a mention that the house was 100 years old and only heated by a wood stove, and stories about the dangers of his job had me convinced I’d made a mistake coming here.
When I woke up for my one and only day riding at Silverton Mountain, the house was still warm and Kyle’s two huskies hadn’t chewed up my camera gear. We were off to a good start. In the base-tent I met some east coasters who knew about Yobeat and talked me into springing for the heli drop. It wasn’t hard — I can think of a lot worse things to spend the money on. And I was doing it.
They also meticulously patrol the inbounds backcountry of the resort, and give you a guide who actually knows a thing or two. For an inherently dangerous activity, and backcountry boarding, it’s pretty much as safe as you can get being super extreme. BUT THAT DOESN’T MEAN YOU CAN’T DIE.
Unfortunately I wasn’t the only one to hear the news of 55 inches, and it was day 4 after the storm, so there were definitely some tracks. It wasn’t the blower pow my pal Shaun White showed me and the light was kind of flat. Don’t read that as a complaint, it’s not. And on the last run of the day, our guide Jess took us down “Delores,” a gully that sees no sun and hadn’t been open until just then. Insert face shots here.
This is what happens when you go for the heli ride (with A-man voice over for dramatic effect.)
Silverton is only open Thursday-Sunday (unless you wanna rent out the whole place) so on Monday I offered to take Kyle to check out Durango Mountain, otherwise known as Purgatory. On the first lift up we rode with a guy who managed to tell us his whole life story in 5 minutes, and also offered to show us his favorite run “if we could keep up.” During his story he used the expression “no bragging” a few times, which soon entered by lexicon on a regular basis. You may have even read it above.
Purgatory was a groomed paradise, with the exception of the endless traverses, but Kyle was so excited to not be working and riding sans beacon or any hiking, he was even willing to hit the somewhat-scary park jumps. He’s good like that. At the end of the day I was still alive, which means all those premonitions of certain death in Southern Colorado were probably just the weed.
That said, if you want to scare yourself, prove something, or otherwise have a different snowboard experience, go to Southern Colorado. You don’t even have to stay with ski bums, they have hotels and stuff.
Thanks to Silverton Mountain, Purgatory, KC Kyle and his roomies, and the Internet for making this story possible. Sorry I only took one snowboard photo, but not really.