Originally Posted by Oleg S
for what I've heard, Silverton has to be in the league of its own
It is, and it isn't. I don't think it comes close to being the undisputed terrain king by a long shot. What is notable and unique is that even the easiest ways down are still solid advanced/expert.
For example, the easiest line at Silverton is generally considered Tiger 1-5 (small bowls that funnel into one avalanche gully along with Tiger Main). Tiger 1-5 remind me a lot of Pali at A-Basin- long, but not terribly steep or technical- just reasonably steep and did I mention long?
The unique aspects of the Silverton experience (no grooming, required beacon/probe/shovel, guided only through most of the year) give it a hype factor that is hard to meet in reality.
1. It is not a powder paradise, and this is probably the piece that the ski area overhypes most. Conditions can be pretty foul there without recent snow. Tony Crocker puts Silverton's snowfall at about 330"- higher than average for CO but not superlative. Their on-mountain snow reporting is terrible and suspect as they only measure a few times a week and report with a 24 hour delay. One reason I only ski Silverton 1-2 times a year is because with almost any storm, Wolf Creek will get me deeper snow and I can get in a lot more skiing in a day there.
2. Guided skiing can be VERY frustrating. A common complaint is being marched out past virgin snowfields to harvest outlying areas first- and as a result getting in many less descents. Despite what their website says, it is rare that I talk to somebody that got in more than 4 laps on a guided day- doing so seems to require filling a guided group with very high caliber altitude-conditioned athletes who can hustle up the bootpack.
3. The terrain is great, and you can get in way over your head, but that is true of pretty much every area that comes up when debating best terrain.
My general recommendation is that folks try Silverton out during the April unguided season, shooting for either very warm for a corn harvest or after a storm cycle. As long as there is recent snow, there will be a lot of untracked/lightly tracked stuff within a few minutes of the lift- you only need to hike out further if there is a specific feature you want to get into.