Monarch Mountain, located in South Central Colorado, offers 800 acres of
pristine skiing along the Continental Divide in the Sawatch Range within the San
Isabel National Forest. Monarch Mountain is a real Colorado ski area, no fancy real
estate developments or high end shopping (in fact no slope side lodging since
its national forest), just a history of monarch butterflies migrating from
Mexico - hence the name. Its a secret place, but it makes our
Top 10 Colorado Ski Resorts.
Monarch is homespun - dating back to 1939, but heaven on a powder day as they
just don’t get many advanced skiers. Not many skiers and riders have made
it to Monarch
on their Colorado ski trips - which makes this place a bit of a powder secret.
The Panorama (at 11,952') and Pioneer lifts deliver you to plenty of un-altered terrain, glades
and fun soft snow trails with clever names like Dire Straits and Examiner. You will feel like a
local butterfly as you flit from trail to bowls to untouched snow on its 63
trails served by 5 lifts, one of which - Pioneer is a fixed grip quad, the rest
are old school doubles. Monarch has awesome
double black diamond extreme terrain in Southbound and Mirkwood Bowl which is
accessed with a short 10-minute hike from the top of the Breezeway lift, through
Monarch Mountain also offers Cat Skiing in the backcountry of Mirkwood
Basin to score you backcountry snow on 1,200 acres of steeps and glades. Monarch snow cat tours are like an all day ski limo for 12 skiers that
gives you private access to powdery bowls and tree skiing with your two guides for under $300 a
day, including morning safety protocol, cat rides and skiing, lunch at the base
and more freshies in the afternoon.
Monarch is reputed for its friendly locals and abundant natural snow, over 350 inches annually,
they don't' make snow, they get it. You can park your car and walk right to the lifts,
lift tickets are affordable and you can't get lost as all trails flow back to
the base. Monarch's beginner area right at the base is convenient for beginners,
including a covered magic carpet.
Monarch's recently expanded base lodge is warm and welcoming, and happens to get
high marks for its elevation, the highest base in North America at 10,790' (ten
feet above Arapahoe Basin's base).
Monarch is also home to the highest Starbucks in the world. The Sidewinder
Saloon in Monarch's Lodge is a great spot for a sit down table service lunch or
an après ski beer. The nachos are not to be missed - with lots of Colorado beef.
Good news for Monarch maniacs, the leather strap bar at Sidewinder Saloon is still
intact, along with plenty of local Colorado microbrew beer taps.
Monarch has big plans for expansion to add an additional chairlift on the
backside, but being in US Forest Service land, this development could take time
- must work with the tree huggers and some bureaucracy. For now Monarch offers
an unhurried pace, untouched powder days after a storm and fun trail skiing as
well. B's Bash is one of the steepest homologated FIS Slalom race trails in
Monarch Mountain is three hours from Denver, closer to Colorado Springs where
their day skiers come from. For lodging, stay in the great nearby town of Salida, just 18 miles away when you are
skiing Monarch Mountain. On your Colorado ski tour, you could combine skiing at
Crested Butte, an hour and a half from Monarch.
The Palace Hotel in downtown Salida is the best place to stay when skiing
Monarch - a beautifully restored 1909 boutique hotel in this cutesy cowboy town
that attracts outdoor enthusiasts as much in summer for fishing and boating on
the Arkansas River as it does in winter for skiing. The Palace Hotel has 14
spacious suites with views of the river and surrounding mountains, some with kitchens and all with modern amenities and an old
world Western feel. The Palace Hotel location is steps from some great Salida
dining, bars, shops and art galleries on F Street for your après ski enjoyment.
Monarch Mountain is part of the One World One Pass promotion, you can buy as
season pass with ski benefits at Loveland, Silverton, Crested Butte, Durango,
Ski Apache, Angel Fire, Ski Cooper, Alta, Revelstoke, Grand Targhee,
Sierra at Tahoe, Ski Discovery, Red Mountain, and Alp 2500 in Spain,
Hochkossen in Austria, and Hochfelln, Wendelstein, and Oberaudorf in Germany.