Silverthorne, CO backcountry skiing thrills in the nearby Gore Range |

Silverthorne, CO backcountry skiing thrills in the nearby Gore Range

Special to the daily: Leo Wolfson
Special to the Journal/David Gidley

Getting out into the backcountry may seem like an arduous task on the surface, but leaving the beaten path into the great outdoors is surprisingly easy in the town of Silverthorne. The Gore Range Mountains are just a stone’s throw away from town, and provide a stunning backdrop to the skyline. The best part is, they are even more breathtaking when experienced up-close. The easy-to-access trails allow for adventurers to explore fantastic alpine environments while snowshoeing, hiking, cross-country skiing, downhill skiing or snowboarding throughout the winter months.

Most prominent in the landscape overlooking Silverthorne are Buffalo Mountain (looker’s left) and Red Peak (looker’s right), both of which top out at over 13,000 ft. The Salt Lick trail system is arguably the best access-point for these mountains, and can be reached from Wildernest or Ryan Gulch Roads. The trails range from easy to more difficult, and can be utilized by all ranges of non-motorized winter pursuits. It’s important to remember that the town of Silverthorne averages about 128 inches of snow a year, and this number only increases with elevation. Because of this, there’s a high likelihood that ankle- to knee-deep snow will meet you somewhere along your trek. Plan accordingly with layers of clothing and nutritious food, in case the trip goes longer than expected. Packed snow is very manageable for foot hiking, but fresh powder is a whole different beast. Be sure to do research with the White River National Forest Service and Dillon Ranger District before heading out on your travels.

Cross-country skiing along these trails can be an incredible experience of beauty. Gliding along, as birds chirp in your ears, expansive valleys fill your view and the sight of other humans is few and far in between — one would be hard pressed not to feel at least a small sense of contentment. As great as it can be, it is important to consider that, like hiking, cross-country skiing in deep snow can be very difficult. Unless seeking an ultra-intense workout, it’s generally best to snowshoe or skin with skis or a splitboard for these conditions.

Downhill backcountry skiing or snowboarding usually awards its users with more-than-favorable conditions, and within the area surrounding Silverthorne, a number of prime spots exist. One of these is the Silver Couloir, located off the north side off the top of Buffalo. Silver is one of the best backcountry destinations in Summit County, with steep chutes and even deeper powder throughout. If looking for a mellower backcountry run, the south side of Red Peak offers some wonderful bowl-style runs, with a variety of steepness to choose from. The best way to access these slopes are to take the Willowbrook Trail off of Willowbrook Rd, and then turn right on the Mesa Cortina Trail.

Figure skating is a great wintertime activity, whether it’s done indoors, or on an outdoor pond. One unique approach that’s available in Silverthorne is hiking to skate. From the Meadow Creek trailhead, jump on the Lily Lake trail. From this trail, a number of ponds are within walking distance, that are a great skate in the winter months. Along the previously mentioned route on the south side of Red Peak, a pond is also available. This can be a great day-activity that adds some additional excitement for kids on a hike. This adventure is best after a few days of warmer temperatures, or snow-less weather, in order to avoid heavy snow on the ponds.

Always consult the Colorado Avalanche Center, and have proper safety gear and clothing, before engaging on any of these voyages.

Recommended Trails

Salt Lick Trail System

Mesa Cortina

Lily Pad

Ptarmigan (more challenging)

Angler Mountain

Rock Creek Road

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