I should admit up front that I have never skied Silverton Mountain, but I have been backcountry skiing the terrain surrounding the area for 15 years, starting before the lift was put in. I know literally dozens of people that have skied Silverton Mountain, including a group that was there last Sunday. The reactions to skiing there run from “it sucks and is a rip off” to “it was great skiing and definitely worth it.”
The terrain is all very steep, and I would agree that 80% of skiers would not be up to it. You usually end up having to do at least one 30-45 minute hike at 12,000 ft., some of it on exposed ridges. Because of the avalanche danger and the steep terrain, most of the skiing is one at a time. The guide makes 10 or 15 turns and stops, and then everyone in the group goes one at a time. This makes for a slow run. Almost everyone I have talked to only got 4 runs for their $125, although one friend did get 6 runs.
A huge part of their terrain consists of steep avalanche chutes, most of which funnel down to narrow gullies at the bottom. Early season you must ski rocky narrow gullies with bumps to finish the runs. The exit point for one side of the area is a parking lot that is used by backcountry skiers. One day early last year I talked to 4 guys that just came down, and 3 of them had core shots. Once the snowpack is deep enough you just ski bumps or ave debris at the bottoms.
Last Sunday there was a foot of new. Since they need to “farm” the snow they do not let you go where ever you want. My friend said that the guide would repeatedly instruct the group of 8 skiers to stay to the left of his track, and then set it 15 feet from other tracks forcing them to ski in each others tracks while looking at acres of untracked snow next to them. They also use the premise of wanting you to experience the entire mountain as an excuse to have you ski on aspects that have bad snow, while other aspects are much better. They understandably want to spread the best experience to as many people as possible, but consequently you may not get to ski the best snow on the mountain every run.
If you are going to go there you should definitely have your own group of 8, or you may be stuck with people that are way over their heads, and you will be reduced to skiing/boarding to the lowest common denominator. Many of the people that have skied there in the Spring liked it because the corn snow was good and stable, and they could let it rip a little more.
Of the many people I know that have skied there, about 60-70% said it was worth the expense for the unique experience, but only about few of them have gone back for a second time. I believe they are still only taking 40 guided people a day out, but they are about to double that amount. If they allow unguided skiing it will have to be in limited areas, and they will end up with steep bumps and scraped chutes. Their logo is a guy falling off a cliff (yeah, really), and with the terrain as steep as it is, if they have unguided skiing I would think you would have a real danger of skiers and equipment coming down on you from above in many places.
In re-reading this it seems pretty negative, which was not my intent or my perception of Silverton Mountain. What Brill is doing is a fantastic concept, and they seem to be doing a pretty good job with what they have to work with, and all the b.s. they have had to go through. It appears to be a unique high mountain ski experience that you cannot get anywhere else in the country without climbing or heli skiing. I guess what I am trying to say is that Silverton Mt. has gotten unbelievable positive press coverage, but the reality of the skiing may not quite live up to the image they are projecting.