Anybody who has had the pleasure of sipping a cold beer from one of Cripple Creek’s taps has come across the hardcover book “Fifty Classic Ski Descents of North America”. One of my first memories of the shop was pouring over this book and being awestruck by the raw and powerful beauty of the peaks on display. Every page reveals another ridiculous mountain and a story of how someone went and conquered it. Like any die hard skier I pictured myself making turns in these magical places and longed to add my own chapter to this hallowed book. However, with limited backcountry experience I had no intention of going after any of these peaks on my own, and the book remained a far off goal. All of that changed when my phone buzzed late one Thursday night with a message from my boss Gary inviting me on an early morning mission to ski The Silver Couloir. My response was an unequivocal yes and just like that this book became more than just a fantasy. Classic ski descent #8 was in the crosshairs.
Gary, Cal, and myself started on the trailhead at 0645 with the goal of skiing both the Silver and Little Elvis Couloir’s. Both lines boast protected North/Northeast aspects with upwards of 3000 feet of sustained steep skiing- all with easy access from SIlverthorne. With the latest storm depositing another foot of snow in Summit county, we were in for an all time day. Sporting my trusty DPS Alchemist 106 and Scarpa F1, I felt confident as we ascended the East face of Buffalo mountain. The morning sun gave us breathtaking views of the TenMile range and Divide as we zigzagged up a well traveled skin track. As we gained elevation, old growth forest was replaced with younger saplings letting us know we were making our way through the old avalanche path. Not much longer and we gained the tree line where the skin track disappeared and we had to break trail through wind drifted snow. Determined to ski two laps we made great time and found ourselves on top of Silver at 0830.
Morning light makes the early alarm clock worth every penny
If only skiing could always be this good. We dropped in one at a time and leapfrogged down the couloir skiing as far as our burning legs would allow. Snow at the top was a bit wind affected but still fantastic and it only got better from there. Turn after turn was deep and the pitch was a beautifully consistent 30-35 degrees. Never had I skied so many effortless and uninterrupted deep turns; simply put it was the best skiing of my life. We got to the bottom of the line and bushwhacked our way back to the skin track which happened to be at the base of Little Elvis. A partly cloudy morning helped kept the snow cold so we felt confident to go after our second objective. Revitalized by 3000 feet of heaven, we started our way towards Little Elvis.
The skies opened up for Tom skiing Silver
The exit to Silver is pretty tame. Just a short traverse through the trees brings you back to the skin track
A short but annoying skin brings you back to the trail intersection and from there the skin track is virtually the same to the summit; the only difference being a right turn and about 300 vertical feet less to the Little Elvis Entrance. With the skin track already put in we gained the entrance around 1100 and were greeted with strong gusts that made transitioning an adventure. We managed to get our skis on and navigated a much more wind affected entrance and a number of rocks to get into the Couloir. While the entrance had us a bit concerned about how the Couloir would ski, our worries quickly subsided. After a hectic first few turns, the wind died and we skied more untouched, bottomless pow. Little Elvis skied a bit steeper, narrower, and shorter; but was equally fun. We leapfrogged the entire line, navigated a tricky exit, and then skinned back to the car. At noon we were drinking beers in the parking lot celebrating one hell of a day in Summit County.
Cal wiggling his hips down Silver
Fifty Classic Ski Descents calls Silver Couloir “The Ultimate Roadside Attraction” and it certainly didn’t disappoint. In just over five hours we skied close to 6000 feet of sustained steeps in bottomless snow. The access to these side by side couloirs is unprecedented; every vertical foot gained from the trailhead translates into turns. However, easy access and publicity makes skiing here a very popular option. To ski first tracks in the conditions we did is a testament to getting up early and skiing during the week; not to mention a bit of luck. At the end of the day I was able to ski the best turns of my life, on a Colorado Classic, with some skiers that I look up to in a big way. So as far as i’m concerned it was my best ski day ever… so far.