Pack up Next Year’s Skis, Go to Silverton. Check.

Pack up Next Year’s Skis, Go to Silverton. Check.

We make every effort to test all of next year’s gear as thoroughly as possible so we can help you sift through the info and find the ski that’s right for you. But sometimes, things don’t always go as planned, and we have to make alternate arrangements to make sure we get all the data we need to be the most authentic voice on ski gear.

So when FS Publisher Christopher Jerard called me on Wednesday and said, “Pack your things, we’re going to Silverton,” I was immediately in. Except for one minor detail.

“Um, CJ? I’m in Ottawa.” The team reluctantly put their 20-minutes-from-now departure time on hold so I could hop on a plane back to Denver.

A computerized rendering of Harvey’s home in Ottawa, Canada.

Publisher, Christopher Jerard: Getting some.

I got back in record time and we packed our Toyota Sequoia with 17 pairs of 2009/’10 fat skis, four bodies and all our luggage. Seven hours later, we rolled into one of the most unique ski destinations in North America: Silverton Mountain, CO.

Upon arrival, we rallied together a team of highly qualified testers: The experienced guides at Silverton.

Alex, our guide, charging.

With everyone on point and ready to go this morning, we began the process. Top-to-bottom guided laps, full of fresh pow, some mini-golf lines and the odd tree route. With our newly acquired 11-strong team of staffers, ams and guides, we ran next year’s fat skis through the gauntlet. The best part of “having” to come down here? These skis were tested in the most authentic environment possible: deep powder in gnarly terrain.

“1. You could die here today!” reads the trail map at the summit of the mountain. “This is not your regular ski resort…,” it continues.

The sign’s blunt message reads much louder and clearer than I could get away with writing. And it’s anecdotal to the Silverton Mountain way of life. The mountain has just one double chair, and for most of the season, you can only ski with a guide. There’s no on-hill lodging (in fact, the only building is a yurt which serves beer on ice and a rod-iron oven to bring the heat). You park on the street wherever you can (which isn’t bad considering that today there were maybe 100 skiers on the mountain) and… wait for it… the chairlift was dug in by hand–and I don’t mean a hand on the controls of a bulldozer–I mean the way you dig a hole in your backyard when you’re a kid with the intention of digging a secret tunnel to the other side of the world. Only difference is they actualized their goal.

The guides open up only portions of the terrain each day, so a week after a storm, they can lead you right to brand-spanking new powder, which for our purposes can not be topped.

As an added bonus, Silverton added full-time heli laps to its program this year. So if you get sick of waiting in line (which is probably 1- to 2-people long) you can pay a nominal fee to take a bird to a whole other zone, which has even less tracks.

The Silverton heli awaits.

Our heli accessed line. Legit.

Two of our testers, Fielding Miller and Josh Bishop, had never been on a heli until today. Our skilled pilot landed us on a 3-foot-wide knife ridge, dropping us on top of an AK-style line. And we shredded. Next year’s fats had no idea what was coming at them. Crushed. CJ went up four more times just to make sure the skis he was on were really as good as he thought.

Josh Bishop, stoked on getting his heli-cherry popped.

Fielding scopes his line from the top of the knife edge.

We ended our day with some apres at the Villa Dallavalle in Silverton, thanks to our gracious host, Pam. The Villa is a B&B built over 100 years ago and it has hands down the best breakfast within 50 miles. When you plan your trip to Silverton, stay there, and say hello to Pam for us.

We’re off to Telluride now to continue our on-the-go ski testing mobile. Check back at the end of the weekend for another update.

Be sure to check out our 2010 Buyer’s Guide for all the dirt on next year’s gear. It’s sure to be the most thorough effort we’ve ever put forth.

Bye bye from Silverton.

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