Buffalo Mountain, Silver Couloir

The Summit County Classic

Driving into Summit County from Denver on I70, the Silver Couloir on Buffalo Mountain is highly visible. Nearly 3000 feet long, wide, and accessible, this couloir is included in the 50 Classic Ski Descents of North America. As Jacob and I drove back from Rocky Mountain National Park, something looked funny. I zoomed in with my camera and confirmed my suspicions – Silver was tracked out. That, coupled with minimal avy reports in the last week and warm, stable weather convinced us to take a lap on the classic the next morning.

The approach up Buffalo climbs through a nice forest for a while before finally entering the alpine. I enjoyed the skin up, although it was a bit of a roaster in the east facing sun on a hot morning. I showed some skin on the skin track in the upper portion, although a cold breeze greeted me on the true summit.

Shirtless atop Buffalo Mountain.

Buffalo sits at the southern terminus of the Gore Range. You might not hear much about the Gore Range because it has not a single Colorado 14er, but it is Jacob’s favorite range because the peaks are much steeper and there is a high density of north facing couloirs. If stability had been better earlier in our trip, we would have hit a bunch of these remote lines. But this time around, I would have to settle for the classic Silver Couloir.

Mount of the Holy Cross visible on the right.
Looking north into the Gore Range.

We descended from the true summit over to the top of the couloir. Despite daytime temps of close to 60 degrees down in the valley, we surprisingly found a little bit of blown-in powder.

Skiing off the top of Buffalo.

Up high, the Silver is wide and mellow. It rolls so you cannot really see it from above. It feels more like a face than a couloir. The feature is massive.

Jacob skiing into the Silver Couloir.

The snow was variable – never corn, never powder, never great, always decent. The left side saw more sun and skied more like spring snow, whereas the right side skied more wintery. Our timing seemed perfect, because the bottom was starting to get a bit mushy. It gradually got narrower until progressing through the choke.

Jacob near the bottom of the Silver.

In the low angle glades at the bottom, I was flying at high speeds when my left ski tip caught on something and I went flying. My ski eventually ejected, but I was thrown pretty far and my right arm got caught on a jammed pole, pulling my shoulder back. My left hip flexor also got strained pretty badly. It was the first ejection of my ski season and my worst crash in a long time. The skin out an icy, booted-out tractionless skin track was tough with a bad arm and leg, but I made it out. It was fortunate that this was not in the middle of a longer ski tour.

After finally skiing the Silver, I understand the classic status. It offers a 3000 foot descent down an awesome line that can be toured roundtrip in about 3 hours. The bang for your buck is off the charts! It is never steep or gnarly, but simply fun the entire way. The crash at the end put a bummer on my mood, but it was a reminder that mistakes typically happen in the easiest terrain!

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