By Molly Baker
Silverton, Colorado is exactly the kind of place you want to spend the Yuletide season. Especially if you are a group of five ski bums living within 112 square feet—no shower and ski gear avalanching from every nook of space. The locals are blushingly generous, the streets caked white with snow, and the surrounding mountains a gift unlike anything that comes wrapped in waxy paper covered with Santas.
“People tour for miles and miles to get views like this,” said new friend and Silverton local Steve Mead. “Here in Silverton we get to walk to the grocery store with these sights.”
Surrounded by peaks like The Grand Turk, at 13,160 feet, and Sultan Mountain, at 13, 368 feet, mountains towering thousands of feet above the town are the standard canvas. It’s precisely the kind of wall art we needed for the tiny house. Looking out of any of the teensy windows, snow-covered goliaths fill every inch of glass.
Two weeks ago the Outdoor Research crew graced the San Juan Mountain town of Silverton and parked the tiny house at a secluded 9,138 feet after an intense drive over southern Colorado’s Molas Pass (intensified by a melted accelerator cable in a truck pulling a 5,000 pound trailer/house on wheels). The winding, icy mountain road ended abruptly in Silverton. Our planned five-day trip turned into over 14. At this point, we still don’t know our departure date. But, it has become apparent, there are worse places to get beached.
Built in the late 1800s, Silverton never experienced a devastating fire like many mining towns in the West during that time. Many of the original buildings in the town are still standing (along with the secret underground tunnels from Main Street to the original Red Light District). There are two streets in the “business” district: Main and Blair Street. These days there isn’t much taking place. But, during the town’s glory days, Blair Street was the home to over 40 saloons and brothels. Today only a few shops are open. Blair is where the tiny house has lived for the past two weeks, just down from the town’s hostel and the Avalanche Café.
With a year-round population of 500, the mornings are quiet albeit the occasional snow machine or dog sled drive by. Waiting for the sun to turn up the valley furnace, we’ve woken up to many negative temperature days. But the tiny house has been toasty.
A few days up at Silverton Mountain and even more out in the San Juan backcountry, we’ve found rocks, the deepest facets we’ve ever skied, and challenging avalanche conditions with no patience for skier complacency. Every line feels like your running from the bank with bags of money only to evade the cops by chance. Maybe it’s just because we hail from places like Washington and Utah, but the snowpack makes you feel like you are getting away with something everyday.
Eventually we are going to need to escape Silverton, although being on a first name basis with the owners of the cafes, the guides at the mountain, and the ripping mountain folk that thrive in this place, is going to make that a difficult move. All we need is a biblical storm to hit Jackson, Tahoe, SLC, Whistler—somewhere. At this point it’s the Jet Stream, or the mechanic’s decision, if the tiny house ever leaves the San Juans.