Silverton is a mountain town in the southwest corner of Colorado (current population: 700). Settled in a caldera at 9,300 feet, the tiny mining town was originally home to Ute Indians who spent summers hunting the highlands. In 1873 the Brunot Agreement opened the San Juan Mountains to settlement and by 1960 the first white men, miners, flocked to Silverton in search of silver and gold. The early days were marked by a rough and tumble crowd in a dangerous profession. As their numbers grew, churches, hospitals, a library, town hall and miner’s union moved into town and the population surged, peaking at nearly 5,000. Many hotels and buildings, roads and mines built during that boom still stand on street corners and mountains sides to tell the town’s history today. Though the town has transitioned into a hotbed of mountain activities, it holds tight to its rich mining history and culture—a combination that results in some uniquely creative and unforgettable events.
Now in its third year, the Silverton Whiteout is a quirky snow-biking race and winter festival. The race course encircles the town and showcases it’s mining history and mountain culture. The race starts at the historic Grand Imperial Hotel, and the course (though it changes annually) offers stops for beer and BB guns, bacon, and live music.
Cowboys, horses and skiing collide in the small mining town for this unlikely and exciting Western Event. Skijoring (ski driving) is a uniquely winter sport, originally a mode of transportation that’s (now) a widely-accepted sport involving a single horse pulling a person on skis (think water skiing, minus the water and the warmth and the motor). This great sport made its way to Silverton in 2010, and now draws a crowd of nearly 2,500.
July 4: Independence Day Celebration
What Silverton may lack in size, they make up for in spirit and sound over the 4th of July. The unique geology of the town creates the perfect acoustics; fireworks reverberate off the mountain sides and the town fills to the brim in celebration.
In many ways, the Hardrock Hundred Mile Endurance Race is a continuation of the unique perseverance and fortitude it takes to survive in the mountains. While mining and running may have little in common, suffering surely unites the two. If the 100.5 miles, 33,050 feet of climb and 33,050 feet of descent at an average elevation of 11,000 feet don’t inspire you, visit town at the beginning or end of the race to witness and cheer for those who make the trek.
Oh, and be sure to stop by Silverton’s Mining Heritage Museum for juicy history and suggestions of historic sites to visit while you’re in town. And, as always, feel free to give us a call with your questions; if we don’t have the answer, we’ll find it.