Story by Doug Ward
SILVER STAR MOUNTAIN, BRITISH COLUMBIA — Whenever I get off Silver Star Resort’s Comet Express and cruise the green run called Bergerstrasse, I can almost sense my brain becoming cranked with dopamine.
The long traverse is the entry point to this Okanagan Valley resort’s challenging Putnam Creek area, a bonanza of black and double-black chutes.
The annual opening of the Bergerstrasse is marked with a ceremony attended by local hardcore skiers and snowboarders, heralding the resort’s shift from early-season conditions into full-on winter glory.
Last winter, I entered Putnam Creek midway through the season, cruising the eight-kilometre (five miles) stretch of Bergerstrasse and Aunt Gladys, over to backside, or what’s commonly called the “Dark Side.”
I rode up the Powder Gulch Express chair lift and headed down a fast blue run called Sunny Ridge, checking on either side for a steep descent. I settled on Sunny Glades, stopping at its entrance of this black run, for a zen alpine moment amid the treed mountain sides.
Welcome to the Dark Side at Silver Star
On this day, as luck would have it, Putnam Creek was at its finest. First tracks, on a mostly bluebird afternoon, with soft and fluffy snow, after a 15-centimetre overnight dump.
Five minutes pass and no other skier enters this fabulous steep powder run. After my interlude of solitude, I make a series of wide turns through the trees and down the run that narrows near the bottom, taking me back to the Powder Gulch chair.
And so it went through the day: One steep descent after another on Silver Star’s “Dark Side,” fabulous in-bounds powder skiing, with a blue run every so often for when the flesh (and the mind) was weak.
I was reminded of what Silver Star resort services manager Robin Baycroft had told me the day before: “The Dark Side can provide heli-skiing conditions for the price of a lift ticket.”
It may be a marketing catch-phrase but on this day, and many other days that I’ve skied Silver Star, it was true. While Silver Star has a reputation as a family destination because of the green and blue runs on its Vance Creek side, the resort is also a magnet for advanced skiers because of the Putnam Creek side. The Putnam Creek area opened in 1991, doubling the resort’s skiable terrain.
A third area, Silver Woods, has great intermediate skiing with fast groomers and widely spaced glade skiing. In the first two-and-a-half hours of my visit this year, I skied nine runs up and down Silver Woods, packing in the vertical feet, through soft powder.
“For all the right reasons we’ve been known as a great family resort,” Baycroft said. “But what some people forget is that Putnam Creek offers incredible advanced and expert skiing. There is the discerning clientele who know that. And they will come here and put their kids in lessons, and Mom might want to cruise the blues, and Dad wants to go and ski all the bump runs over on the Dark Side.”
Baycroft said that when it comes to steep descents, many skiers don’t think of Silver Star in the same ranks as hills like Red Mountain, Revelstoke, Fernie, or Lake Louise – but they should, he added, because of Putnam Creek.
“Many of the other resorts with great alpine bowl skiing have descents that are steep for the first five or six turns, and then the slope peters out. On the Dark Side of Silver Star, you’re skiing down ridges and into creek beds, so when you peel into the creek bed, it’s a consistent, sustained pitch from top to bottom, and you can get spanked pretty good, sometimes.”
More About Silver Star Resort
Address: 123 Shortt Street, Silver Star Mountain
Ski Ticket Prices:
Alpine: (Day Pass, 8:30 am – 3:30 pm) Adult $79, Senior (65+) $67, Youth $67
Nordic: Adult $16.50, Youth & Seniors $12