Discovering the Dream of Silverton Mountain

Tim Petrick has been in the ski business for over 45 years.  Petrick is a published author with two books on skiing, was a 3X member of the PSIA Alpine Demonstration Team and has held various senior executive positions in magazine publishing, ski resorts and equipment manufacturing. Prior to joining Silverton Mountain as Chief Operating Officer, Petrick was the President and CEO of K2 Sports. We asked him to share his reflections after his first season in Silverton, and to capture what makes this place so amazing.

I first heard about Silverton Mountain in the late 1990s.  At the time I was the Marketing VP for K2 Skis, attending the Snowsports Industries of America Trade Show in Las Vegas.  I had agreed to a meeting with Aaron and Jen Brill where they told me about their idea for an adventure ski area in the San Juan Mountains.  There would be no grooming, a single lift to provide access and virtually no amenities other than the skiing.

From a business perspective the Brills plan seemed like fantasy.  At that point in time, sidecountry skiing was barely tolerated at most resorts across the USA. Fat skis were in their infancy.  Rocker hadn’t been invented yet. Adventure skiing was a micro niche.  I told Jen and Aaron that I didn’t think it would pencil financially but if they got the lifts running, K2 would be happy to sponsor Silverton Mountain.

Fast forward to Fall 2015 when I resigned as the CEO of K2 Sports and decided to return to the mountains after 25 years of increasingly “real” jobs.  My career in the business had begun on the ski resort side and I was looking for a way to get back on the snow. It turned out that Aaron and Jen were looking for help and I started as Silverton Mountain’s first Chief Operating Officer in December 2015.  This was one of those “am I dreaming” moments when everything seems to be too good to be true.

This past season at Silverton was incredible in so many ways. First there was the culture shock that came with moving from the traffic and population density of the Seattle metropolitan area to a very small town in the San Juan Mountains. The Town of Silverton has about 600 year-round residents and the buildings make the town feel like an authentic Western movie set.  The pace is relaxed and the locals are genuine, hardworking, honest people who have chosen to live in this remote mountain town at an elevation that is 9,318’ above sea level.  Moving to Silverton was a huge gear change but we felt immediately at home.

It is probably no surprise that the next thing I recall about my first season at Silverton Mountain is the skiing.  First is the daily ritual of driving 6 miles on a dirt road to the base of the hill which doesn’t look like any other ski area you’ve ever visited.  There’s a bottom lift terminal, a patrol shack, a half-dozen porta-potties, some picnic tables and a sprung-structure tent which serves as the lodge.  The experience is raw and unfiltered.  You and the 80 or so skiers who are there on a given day have only made the trek for one reason – to slide on snow.  The purity of this shared pursuit of skiing powder bonds friends and former strangers with smiles and laughter.  I can’t tell you how many times I heard from skiers last winter that they had their “best day ever” skiing at Silverton.

As for the skiing itself, Silverton Mountain is a winter playground with nearly 2,000 acres of advanced to expert terrain and an average annual snowfall of 400”.  I got to sample a lot of the mountain last winter in the 50+ days I skied the hill, but I feel like I barely scratched its potential.  In season #1, I got to know the major zones like Pope/Dope, Nightmare, Mandatory, Waterfall, Cabin and Tiger – along with time in the trees on the North side of the mountain – but there are so many features within each of these bigger areas that it will take years to really start to know where the best skiing is on a given day depending on snow and weather/wind conditions.

This is where Silverton Mountain’s guides come in.  These guides have the experience and knowledge to find the best snow even if there hasn’t been a storm in weeks.  Getting to know and work with this group of passionate, committed professionals is perhaps my strongest recollection of my first year at Silverton. They are constantly training and striving to improve their knowledge and execution in order to provide the best possible experience for our guests.  They work hard, take their jobs seriously, and are truly quality people.

So that’s about it for my first submission to the Silverton Mountain newsletter and blog. I hope you will return to ski with us during the 2016/17 winter, or give us a try if you’ve never been here.  Silverton is a truly special place with some of the best skiing on the planet.  And it just might be the best day you’ve ever had sliding on snow.