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Abilities for Silverton?

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 
Here's the background:  I'm a pretty fair skier for a flatlander, and have skied a wide variety of terrain on the resorts (including some hikes into Teo Bowl, etc in CB).  I've done a couple of BC trips as well, but still learning to ski powder competently.

A buddy (who is a superior skier) wanted to plan a trip this year that included a day or two of guided skiing at Silverton.  I checked out some reviews and their website - they report the terrain is for "advanced and expert" skiers.  I would consider myself advanced, but certainly nowhere near an expert.

We haven't bought lift tickets yet, but have scheduled travel.  In doing some additional research on Silverton, I'm beginning to wonder if it should be more accurately characterized as "expert only".  I've read multiple forum reports from what sound like great skiers that suggest even advanced skiers may be way over their heads in Silverton.

I'm as mentally and physically prepared for the hikes as I can probably get (I'm 42 and work at a desk), I have a full appreciation of the avalanche dangers (I've completed the avy 1 course), and I'm fully prepared to swallow my pride and be the worst skier in the worst group, but anxious to get better.  I'm never going to be a better powder skier working out on groomers.  I want to ski within my limits, but I want to ski with better skiers and improve by "doing".  I won't get in over my head, but I'm not afraid to put in the work.

Okay - let me have it.  I recognize I'll have a fair number of responses such as "Stay off our tracks and our mountain, you flatlander hack", but I'm really interested in opinions about the range of terrain, however limited, at Silverton.

EDIT:  And by the way - in reference to another SM post, I'm sure I'll be readily identified in the parking lot as the "bozo", so you have every opportunity to group up prior to the guides sticking you in a group with the likes of me.  I don't mind being the last kid picked for the kickball team.
Edited by OKski - 12/23/09 at 10:29am
post #2 of 12
I'm sure you could probably survive Silverton if you are aggressive enough.  The question is whether you could keep up with your group well enough to not limit the number (or quality) of runs they get when they are paying through the nose for the experience.  The fact that you have to ask, as well as the fact that you are "still learning to ski powder competently" suggests that you would be selfish to try this.  Hiking is the easy part--they have slow groups for this.  But if you slow your group on the downhill, you will not be appreciated.  There is a good TR on the TGR forum about a group where one of the skiers yard-saled, lost a ski, got hurt and ended up costing the group three hours for one run.  Don't let this be you.  Have you heard the expression "No friends on a powder day?"  If conditions are good at Silverton and people have to wait for you *at all* they are going to be upset.  Imagine how you would feel if you were a good skier and the skier that you actually are got put in your group.  That should answer your question pretty clearly.  To sign up for the non-private guided experience at Silverton, you have to have no doubts about your abilities and you have to *know* that you will not be a burden on your group.

If you really want to ski Silverton, then the best solution would be to hire a private guide.  Either hire one yourself or get your own group together of skiers with similar ability.  That way you don't have to worry about ruining anyone else's experience.  Otherwise, plan on spending the day in Telluride while your buddies do Silverton.
post #3 of 12
double post
post #4 of 12
I respectfully disagree with Geoffda.  If people want to go as fast as they can then they need to hire their own guide,  This is no different than any cat or heli op in the world.  All of them deal with clients of differing abilities and do it quite well.    If you ever take a cat or heli trip you will be limited by the worst skier in the bunch....sometimes that might be you no matter how good you think you are.  This is standard operating procedure and the only way around it is to hire out the heli or cat for yourself. 

If the Silverton experience sounds like something you want to do?  Go for it.  You don't learn to ski aggressive lines by NOT skiing aggressive lines.  Just because you have some trepidation about your abilities does not mean you shouldn't do it.  If you believe it beyond your ability then you shouldn't...otherwise go for it.  Much of the terrain at Silverton is no more hairball than much of what you can ski lift served at places like Snowbird, Alta, JH, Squaw or the Butte.
post #5 of 12
Silverton Mountain is not the place to work on improving your mediocre powder skiing skills on a guided ski trip.  If you go unguided you can hack around at your own pace and pick wide open areas to ski, but with guided skiing you go where the guide tells you.  That may be steep tight trees, or wind slab through rocks.  Almost all of the terrain is above tree line, or exposed to the sun and wind, or both.  You can get great powder skiing at Silverton, but you can also get all kinds of god awful snow, especially if you book a trip in advance.  There may be good skiers who made a big time and financial sacrafice to ski there, and they do not want to be reduced to the slowest denominator for even one run.  In my experience SM is not like cat or heli skiing, because the guides tend not to have the same deferential attitude when it comes to bad skiers.

IMO if you "are still learning to ski powder competently" you have no business at Silverton Mt.   There can be some radical and dangerous moves to get to the skiing, but almost none of the actual skiing terrain is "if you fall you die" steep, but the chances of having to ski a substantial amount of gnarly deep snow by the end of the day is pretty high.
Edited by mudfoot - 12/23/09 at 2:25pm
post #6 of 12
Consider replanning your trip to unguided season.

Call Silverton, talk to the boss and see what he says about going guided.

Hike and ski just as good, even better terrain at Telluride, the snow may be more tracked out, but you will make more runs, and prep yourself for Silverton.

Or...

Just go, there are probably lots of folks in the same boat and it will all work out!
post #7 of 12
While not "fall and die", you need to be able to ski difficult terrain in possibly difficult conditions without the option to just traverse to a groomed run. If you are in above your head, you will have a frustrating experience and punish seven people (well, eight if you include the guide) in the process. You may be better served (as suggested above) to ski some comparable terrain at a regular mountain first and then go and enjoy Silverton.

Keep in mind: hiking uphill in ski boots through deep snow while carrying skis etc.at 12000 to 13000 feet is a challenge by itself.
post #8 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by UGASkiDawg View Post

I respectfully disagree with Geoffda.  If people want to go as fast as they can then they need to hire their own guide,  This is no different than any cat or heli op in the world.  All of them deal with clients of differing abilities and do it quite well.    If you ever take a cat or heli trip you will be limited by the worst skier in the bunch....sometimes that might be you no matter how good you think you are.  This is standard operating procedure and the only way around it is to hire out the heli or cat for yourself. 

If the Silverton experience sounds like something you want to do?  Go for it.  You don't learn to ski aggressive lines by NOT skiing aggressive lines.  Just because you have some trepidation about your abilities does not mean you shouldn't do it.  If you believe it beyond your ability then you shouldn't...otherwise go for it.  Much of the terrain at Silverton is no more hairball than much of what you can ski lift served at places like Snowbird, Alta, JH, Squaw or the Butte.
 

Hey Dawg, we probably aren't really that far apart.  The key here is that Silverton is meant for advanced and expert skiers only.  While "advanced" can certainly cover a broad spectrum of skiing abilities, it doesn't cover the OP.  You've got to be able to ski not only powder, but pretty much any other snow condition competently to be at Silverton.  The OP can't do that, so he doesn't meet the minimum bar for being there.  Least common denominator is one thing, but that doesn't give you license to show up without the skills that you are told you need.

The OP should understand that at Silverton, you can get booted off the mountain (without a refund) if you are being guided and don't have the skills and/or you can't hang with the slowest group.  There is not a lot of tolerance there for people who can't hack it.
post #9 of 12
Thread Starter 
 Thanks folks - and congratulations on as excellent an array of responsive posts as I've seen in any threads.  A few differing opinions, but all extremely informative.  Thanks for the considered input.

I've got several ski days between now and then.  My plan is to be in the backcountry a bit during that time, during which I'll be working hard and can solicit an assessment of some really outstanding guides that will give me candid answers.

Thanks again - enjoy the season.
post #10 of 12
I'm a little late to the party, and some strong points are made.

I skied SM for the first time last year.  We live in Santa Fe, so its not that far.  I took my family up for a 3 day trip to Durango, and on the 2nd day, I drove up on my own to ski Silverton for a day.  I consider myself 'expert', without cliff hucking (self preservation; I'd like to be able to ski hard with son and grandkids), but I still had a bit of trepidation going into it.  Turns out I could handle everything fine.  

Here's my thoughts on OKSki's questions:

--Regarding 'learning to ski powder'...  While SM does an incredible job of 'farming the powder', that is, they are strict on where they want you to ski and want you to stack your turns as close to the previous skier as possible, the fact of the matter is that powder doesn't last forever.  At 'normal' ski resorts, powder gets skied out in a few days, so very few people get to ski powder that's been sitting around for a while.  If you hit SM after a storm, or within the week, then it should be nice.  HOWEVER, when I went, there hadn't been fresh snow for 2 weeks.  This results in snow conditions that can be challenging.  You will go from soft to concrete, to slab and crud, all in one run.  The snow can literally change in 20 yards and you have to be prepared for that.  You may get these inconsistent conditions in the backcountry, and that's probably the only place you will experience them b/c they don't exist at ski resorts other than Silverton.

--Regarding advanced/expert terrain...  The easiest runs are still standard double blacks at most resorts.  Plus, with the variable snow conditions, it can get tough.  There are some shots that border on 'no fall zone', and although I haven't skied it, I understand some sections of Pope Face require you to hook on to a rope/caribener (sp?) to get into.  I don't think there are any chutes that require a drop to get in (aka Corbets), and they certainly won't put you in that position unless they are confident in your ability.  All that said, what makes Silverton great is that the whole mountain is challenging, and you will ski lines that would be hard to find at other places without trial and error.  That said, you will find similar terrain (as an earlier poster pointed out) at Snowbird, JH, Squaw, Taos, Telluride, Mammoth, etc., just not as much of it as at Silverton.  Maybe drive down for a day to Taos, and spend the day hiking West Ridge and Highline/Kachina ridge.

--Conditioning.  I have run a marathon.  I live at 7000' (although travel to sea level for work weekly), and do frequent 6-8 mile trail runs at elevation.  We did 6 runs, one of which was a heli drop, and I was completely wasted at the end of the day.  I think I had more energy after my marathon than I did after my 1 day at Silverton.  It was a combination of the hiking and snow conditions.  Some runs were smooth, others were muscling (sp?) through concrete.

--The above withstanding, I think the point about other people is valid.  You just don't know who you're going to get grouped with.  You very well might get put with people that can be a bit unforgiving if you fall behind, or you may not.  I went alone and joined a group of 6 guys that had been there the day before, and I fit right in, so no issues.  People are paying $129/day to ski there, and if you cost them a run or two, then I can see how they could get aggravated.  My suggestion is to get as many in your group as possible that are of similar level, or don't mind having a slow day.  Slow day is 3-4 runs.  Fast is 5-7.  

Now that all that is out.  I absolutely LOVE SM.  I'm planning on at least 4 days up there this year, 2 with friends, 2 solo, and would ski it regardless of the conditions.  It was an incredible experience.  Its all the little things, from the heli, to hiking up steep faces where it would suck to slip and tumble over a cheese=grater, the 'base' area, to noticing that every 3rd-4th chair on the lift has 'slid' down the cable a bit... that make it so awesome. 

Feel free to ask further questions.  Hope my thoughts help.  Take a look at my profile pic and click on it to enlarge it.  That's the hike/climb to the 'billboard'.  Good chance you may do that.  You can see skiers making the climb if you look hard enough...
Edited by SantaFeHorn - 12/26/09 at 9:25pm
post #11 of 12
 If you have any doubts silverton does not sound like a place for you.
post #12 of 12
Great post SantaFeHorn
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