Let’s face it. Skiing can come with a lot of hassles: bus rides just to reach the lifts, expensive parking, lift lines, and ridiculously expensive lift tickets. You’ll find none of these at Monarch Mountain Resort in central Colorado. What you will find is a great Colorado local’s hill. Spanning 800 acres along the Continental Divide, the resort offers a great variety of terrain with just enough hike-to or traverse-to terrain that experts will be able to find fresh tracks well into the afternoon. More ambitious skiers can hike up to Mirkwood Basin, a 15-minute walk that will reward the effort with fresh tracks. Monarch may not have the vertical breadth of larger ski areas, but what it does have is consistently great snow. That’s because they don’t make any machine-made snow here. Yeah, maybe the runs are short compared to bigger mountains, but that just means you can get more vertical.
“Monarch has always had a special place in my heart because the bunny slope is where I first put on skis. I was 31 and had just moved to Colorado, but you’re never too old to learn to ski. I took a lesson and am glad I did. I’ve seen so many people trying to learn on their own or from a friend. But the expert advice proved invaluable, from scooting around on one ski to work on balance to getting on and off the lift. By lunchtime, the instructor turned me loose on my own. By 3 p.m., I felt ready to graduate to a blue run, on which I suffered my first fall-out-of-both-skis yard sale. I was still smiling, and I have since taken two more lessons. You’re never too old to learn to ski or too good that you can’t get better with some expert advice.”
- Monarch is the only ski area in this part of Colorado, so it often gets vastly different snow totals from a storm than other places. Check the weather and snow reports.
- For skiers on a budget, there is a picnic room where you can bring a picnic lunch or even plug in a crockpot for a hot lunch after a few hours out in the cold.
- Monarch offers one of the more flexible passes with free days at Copper Mountain, Loveland, Crested Butte and Ski Cooper, among others. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better bargain.
- Be ready to do a little hiking or scooting if you’re a powder hound. You’ll be amazed what kind of untouched terrain a 3-minute scoot to Curecanti or a 5-minute traverse to Outback Bowl can open up.
Recommended season(s): November to April.
—R. Scott Rappold