Silverton Mountain

The experience is more heli-skiing than resort skiing, but instead of dropping $800, you ride an old double chairlift all day for $99.
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The experience is more heli-skiing than resort skiing, but instead of dropping $800, you ride an old double chairlift all day for $99.
#13: YOU SURVIVED SILVERTON MOUNTAIN.

One old, unassuming double chair rises from Silverton’s base, delivering skiers into an untamed abyss of bottomless pow, wild 2,000-foot fall lines, and the purest lift-accessed skiing in the Lower 48. Bring avy gear, hire a guide (required late January through April), and be prepared to bootpack. This season, Silverton unveils Zone 7, a massive alpine cirque that dumps into BC-style cliffs and 50-plus-degree pillow lines, and the Mad Dog tour, a guided ski descent of the super-narrow, technical, 2,000-foot-long Mad Dog couloir, which requires two guides and rope work. Tap into some of the area’s more remote terrain with a $159 heli bump. After clocking in 10,000 vertical feet in a day, hop on the Silverton Correctional Facility bus and head back to the base-lodge yurt and down some cold ones. If Silverton hasn’t tickled your sweet spot by then, you best get back on the bus and get your head checked.

POWDER DAY: Drag your guide to the back side for a 200-foot-wide, 42-degree screamer called Riff. Don't feel the powder panic-there's more where that came from. Silverton averages about 20 skiers a day, which, given the skier-to-terrain ratio, means there are 80 bountiful acres with your name on them.

THREE DAYS LATER: Silverton's north-facing spruce forests hold powder for weeks, but to avoid aimless bushwhacks, get Aaron Brill (owner, manager, janitor, guide) to show you String, a sheltered cache only he can find.

SPRING DAY: Find corn in Storm Peak's couloirs. The Riding Punch it down Ropedeedope, a 2,200-vertical-foot natural terrain park that traces a series of gullies and steep walls. Along the way are half a dozen wind lips worth launching.

MUST HIT: Hike 25 minutes to Rocky IV, a 3,000-vertical-foot couloir that plummets down a 45- to 50-degree pitch. Check your speed before the mandatory 10-footer: It's followed by a maze of rocks and a slot canyon so narrow you'll feel like a chubby Santa in a skinny chimney.

THE STASH: Traverse into Nightmare, a spider's web of 28 hairball chutes below 13,487-foot Storm Peak.

BACKCOUNTRY ACCESS: Ride the lift.

UP ALL NIGHT: You can drink at the Miner's Tavern (970-387-5560) in downtown Silverton, but dance at your own risk-the secondhand smoke could bog down an iron lung. Better yet, stop in at the Explorer's Club (970-387-5006); they have Guinness on tap and a self-service grill to throw a steak on while you tune your skis on their waxing bench.

FUEL: Bring sandwiches in case nothing's open (it happens), but you can usually grab a coffee and a berry scone at The Avalanche (970-387-5282). After skiing, carbo-load on Italian at Pasta la Vista (970-387-5352).

DIGS: For a warm yet spartan room, head to The Triangle on Greene Street ($35; 970-387-5780). The Alma House offers Victorian-style rooms and homemade breakfasts ($79; 970-387-5336).

MUST-KNOW: Sign up for Silverton's monthly one-day avalanche course. There's no better classroom than the unstable snowpack of the San Juans. Consider it hands-on training: It's your life, in your hands .