Silverton, Colorado – population 650 – is home to two ski areas with a grand total of two double chairlifts. The smaller of the two at just 16 acres, owned and operated by the town, is Kendall Mountain. Silverton recently commissioned SE Group to study possibilities for additional ski terrain and year round recreation. The viability assessment, released last month, is very intriguing.
Kendall Mountain Recreation Area’s current lift, installed in 2006, is a 1972 Poma double with a 1990 return terminal. The lift has a design capacity of 800 people per hour (pph), but currently operates at 760 pph. It rises only 263 vertical feet on a mountain that stretches some 3,500 feet above the top terminal. The setup reminds me of Whitetooth before Kicking Horse or Powder Springs pre-Revelstoke Mountain Resort. Both were modest community ski areas at the bases of large mountains transformed into destinations by private developers. Silverton isn’t currently considering anything on the scale of the new British Columbia resorts but the project could eventually yield Colorado’s third largest vertical drop in a place known for epic snowfall.
As part of its public outreach, the town held multiple community meetings to gain feedback over the past year. Top priorities residents came up with at a first brainstorming session were expanded lifts and terrain. SE Group identified excellent ski terrain on the central part of the mountain with a large quantity of terrain suitable for ability levels from novice up to advanced. Importantly, the mountain’s high elevation would provide desirable snow conditions without the need for snowmaking.
SE Group also notes there is potential for Silverton to rise in popularity as a ski destination, benefiting both Silverton Mountain and Kendall Mountain as well as nearby Purgatory Resort. The study concludes that “expanded skiing infrastructure on Kendall Mountain would benefit the existing Silverton Mountain Ski Area by providing a complimentary experience that would draw additional visitors to the area during the winter season.” Silverton currently offers guided lift and helicopter skiing for experts only.