"I told my coach before I went, I said, 'This one's for Speedy,'" Ferguson said.
The American freestylers had honored Peterson this weekend by naming a tow lift after him, at their first event at Deer Valley since the pioneering three-time Olympian committed suicide in Lambs Canyon last summer.
So it hardly mattered to them or any of the thousands of roaring fans who braved the bitter cold that China's Jia Zongyang easily outdistanced Ferguson in the final round or that the Chinese swept the women's competition behind unbeaten world leader Xu Mengtao.
Ferguson was the story.
"To have his career best finish here at Deer Valley is just as special as it could ever be," freestyle program director Todd Schirman said.
That showed in the way Ferguson danced, pumped his fists and stomped his feet (still in his skis) in the finish area, after both the spectacular jump that advanced him to the final and the one that delivered the silver.
Both times, he needed to hit big, under a new format that scores each round individually, rather than combining them with scores from previous rounds. Skiers must now use a different jump in each round, too.
So Ferguson pulled out a double-full full-full for the top score in the semifinal round, then landed a full-full-full as the penultimate jumper in the final. Ferguson scored 118.86 in the final, behind 128.96 for Jia.
"I watched everyone put really good jumps down, so I knew that I had to do the same thing, and it worked out for me," Ferguson said. "I put some jumps down and I'm stoked."
Teammate Scotty Bahrke finished sixth, and illustrated the way the Americans felt about Peterson when he pulled a photo of himself and his former teammate out of his jacket after his last jump.
"He meant a lot to me and the rest of my team," Ferguson said.
"His passion lives on through this sport, through every one of us aerialists out there. It's so cool to see everyone having a good time, and that's what Speedy would want for us."
Visa Freestyle International
Gold • Jia Zongyang, China - 128.96
Silver • Dylan Ferguson, USA - 118.86
Bronze • Olivier Rochon, Canada - 111.78
Gold • Xu Mengtao, China - 95.88
Silver • Cheng Shuang, China - 92.35
Bronze • Kong Fanyu, China - 76.56