Photograph by Whit Richardson, Aurora/Getty Images
If the Wild West is still alive, it’s no more obvious than at Silverton Mountain. This scruffy mom-and-pop ski area is the country’s premier antiresort. The low-speed, two-person chairlift, the old laundry trucks they use as shuttles, and the wood-stove-heated base yurt are your first clues as to the owners’ no-nonsense philosophy: It’s all about the skiing. And skiing there is.
Situated in the remote southwestern corner of Colorado, a seven-hour drive from Denver, Silverton has 1,800 acres (728 hectares) of bowls, chutes, and cliffs all served up au naturel with nary a groomer in sight. To put it mildly, blue-square skiers need not apply: The easiest run tops out at about 35 degrees in pitch. The lift brings you to over 12,000 feet (3,658 meters), but many skiers huff up another 1,000 more vertical feet (305 meters) to access the hairiest couloirs. With an obscene amount of snow—400-plus inches (10-plus meters)—and an utter dearth of skiers (rarely more than 80 per day), Silverton virtually guarantees fresh tracks.
When planning a trip, there are several modes of attack. On select dates in December, January, and April, skiers can ride without a guide. For the rest of the season, skiing is guide-only. Helicopter assistance is available all season: One single helicopter drop gets skiers to a peak or ridge unreachable by foot; a roundtrip drop and pickup gets a day of remote backcountry touring with a guide; or book an entire day and have work-free freshies and gratis bragging rights.
Need to Know: Reserve tickets in advance at Silverton Mountain (www.silvertonmountain.com). Unguided tickets are $49 and guided tickets are $99 to $139, depending on the month. Not including lift ticket, heli drops are $159, heli-accessed backcountry ski touring is $320. A full day of heli-skiing is $999 per person, lift ticket included.