Analysing terrain data
4 - 5
The exposure grade does not take into account objective hazards (stone fall, seracs, etc) but only the consequences of the skier falling.
Low Exposure (E1): Exposure is limited to that of the slope itself. Getting hurt is still likely if the slope is steep and/or the snow is hard.
Medium Exposure (E2): As well as the slope itself, there are some obstacles (such as rock outcrops) which could aggravate injury.
High Exposure (E3): In case of a fall, death is highly likely.
Extreme Exposure (E4): In case of a fall, the skier faces certain death.
Silver Couloir is probably the most well known couloir in Summit County and is included as one of the 50 Classic Ski Descents of North America (50classicskidescents.com).
This is for good reason as the couloir is about 2,500 feet of wide open turns and aesthetic views.
Access is easy and at just over five miles round trip, this couloir is fairly easy to accomplish.
Clear views of Buffalo Mountain and the Silver Couloir can be seen from I-70 if you are coming down from Eisenhower Tunnel.
The route starts at the Ryan Gulch trailhead at the top of the Wildernest subdivision of Silverthorne.
The first half of the climb is through pine forests and follows a well-traveled trail.
Once you get near treeline the trail becomes more dispersed but one or two skin tracks should be present as you start to zigzag your way up and out of the trees.
Above treeline, inspiring views over Dillon Reservoir and the Ten Mile range will come into sight.
Keep climbing towards the ridge and continue up the mellow slopes to the summit of Buffalo Mountain.
The views at the summit don’t disappoint as the Gore range comes into view to the North and West.
Silver Couloir is off the North face and you might have seen it from the ridge on your way to the summit.
There are two entrances and both offer wide open slopes that roll over into the couloir at similar angles.
Sometimes the skier’s right entrance gets more wind and the snow can get “bulletproof” but that is the line I followed to create the GPX on Fatmap.
The couloir is fairly open the entire way down so you don’t have to worry about any chokes or cruxes.
Larger cliff bands rise above skier’s right and offer a great foreground backdrop for a photo.
The slope doesn’t get above 40 degrees except for some spots along the skiers left side of the couloir but these can easily be avoided if you’re so inclined. Once you get down the couloir, start cutting right and try to stay high to find a clearing in the trees that leads East.
It can be tough to find the correct route or trail back to the front side of the mountain.
Keep your skins handy because you will have to do a little more climbing uphill to get out of the gulch and back to the trailhead.
Generally follow the GPX route to get back to the main trail you started on.
People often get lost in this area so bring a GPS or topo map and don’t continue down the gulch as this will take you further away from the trailhead.
The couloir does avalanche so make sure to check local conditions before you attempt this route.
I have listed the main season as spring time but this can be skied during the winter if avalanche conditions are stable.
Some people prefer to hike up the couloir instead of following the trail detailed on the GPX.
This is not the standard route but if you chose to do this one benefit is that you can test snow conditions in the couloir as you climb it.