The amount of backcountry I have skied this season has been like a meal at fancy restaurant in Aspen: small, but delicious. Early season pow was skied at places like William’s Peak and Jones Pass, but the Freeskiing World Tour stops I competed in, and the preparation I did before them, meant lots of riding the wire and cranking out in-bounds laps. In fact, I didn’t spend a single day of February with a beacon on.
Fortunately, with the competitions behind me, I was able to go on my first real backcountry mission with Collin this past weekend: a climb to the top of Buffalo Mountain, the round-top mountain that rises above Silverthorne, and a ski descent of the classic Silver Couloir on its north side.
The day started at 4am in Denver, and at the trailhead by 7am. The roads and trailhead were pretty snowy, but I had a good feeling that it would all clear, and it did within a few hours of leaving the parking lot.
Our skintrack switchbacked for a while after reaching treeline, but decided to throw the skis on our backs and walk on exposed rock rather than continuing switchbacks on the steeper snow that surrounded us. The view kept getting clearer and sharper, so the pace of camera use increased as well.
The bootpack went quickly, and we soon found ourselves overlooking the beautiful wave that is known as the Silver Couloir. The snow looked wind affected, similar to the hard snow we were walking on, but it would prove to be much better.
We found ourselves on the uppermost ridge at about 11am. We walked the ridge a little while, wondering if we were on the summit. We decided to forego the traverse to a twin summit across the way, and we backtracked a little while and got ready for the ski. All the while, we enjoyed the views above and below, which included the eastern Gore Range, Mt. of the Holy Cross, and a super gnarly bowl that cuts Buffalo Mountain in half.
We transitioned into downhill mode quickly, with our biggest concern being the rising heat. Collin and I had fallen victim to wind slab and heat before, so we moved to the top of the couloir quickly. We were both not expecting just how good the descent would be.