Monarch Mountain Might Be The Coolest Colorado Resort

The-evolution-of-Blizzard-skis—Thermo-to-Gunsmoke

Unless it’s closing day at Aspen Highlands, a “Blizzard of Ahhs” commemoration shred session at Squaw Valley or the Gelande Quaffing Championships at Jackson Hole, you might get scoffed at sliding up to the chairlift any other day rocking Rossi Roc 550s. However, there’s a ski area that is an exception to the rule: Monarch Mountain. Schussing around in jeans with gators on straight 210s is cool in Monarch the way duct tape is sweet in Crested Butte. Waterlogged river rats that make a living on the world-class rivers atop the Continental Divide and no frills locals that have been skiing the same spot for decades make up the majority of lift lines at Monarch Mountain. And, for all of the old-school gear Monarch’s locals sport on-snow, the terrain they get to ski on a daily basis is top-notch. Monarch Mountain is Colorado’s best hidden gem.

Located about 20 miles outside of Salida, Colorado, in the Sawatch Range, Monarch Mountain has been spinning its chairlifts since 1939, and, the straight skis that some of the denim-clad locals are on date back to years gone by. Atmosphere is one thing Monarch does as well as any mountain in Colorado. The vibe at the base of the mountain feels like skiing did in the good old days, and everyone is always smiling.

“You go to a lot of places and people vibe you super hard,” said Aspen-based pro skier Pat Sewell, recent winner of the coveted Captain’s Cup from Powder Week at Jackson Hole. “No one’s counting vert, no one cares what run you just skied or how rad you skied it. Everyone at Monarch is just throwing high-fives and that’s way cooler. It’s just all about having a good time.”

Pat Sewell Monarch MountainPat Sewell having a good time at Monarch Mountain.

The frontside skiing that Monarch’s cheap lift ticket (adults ski for $57) accesses is legit by itself. Steep glades fall from the ridgeline with tons of rocks to drop off along the way. A short five- to 15-minute bootpack gets skiers on top of terrain stashes that promise pow turns.

“You’ll find untouched snow a week after storms in the hike-to zones,” Monarch Snowcat Tours guide Chad Hixon said. “The steep lines in Mirkwood Bowl and the trees off Elation Ridge are as good as it gets.”

Along with the frontside shredding, Monarch Mountain boasts the best season pass in the world. It is not outlandish to call their “One Planet One Pass” the best deal on the planet. For just $439, Monarch Mountain’s season pass holders can ski all over the world. The pass spans two continents, four countries and six states in the US. Telluride, Taos, Grand Targhee and Revelstoke are just a few mountains that jumped on-board with Monarch in North America, and areas in Germany and Austria are also included.

No Name Bowl at Monarch MountainNo Name Bowl.

The mountain’s real claim to fame, though, is the insanely good skiing that the Monarch Snowcat Tours gets guests to.  The fat, rockered setups that had heads turning at the base of the mountain are the tools of choice on the backside. A zone called “No Name” looks like a mini-Jackson Hole and has endless possibilities to ski tight lines ending in mandatory airs that have never been skied before. Bang out a first descent in No Name and you get the honor of naming the line. (Be sure to get the backstory on the rocky and technical line dubbed “A.G.H.”) The guides at Monarch Snowcat Tours are always exploring, expanding, and opening new areas. And, after knocking off first descents and 12-plus snowcat laps, guests earn get a complimentary beer at end of the day.

So, it’s no wonder that Tecnica Blizzard decided on Monarch Mountain as the spot to host the winners of their “Need to Get Out” contest with Teton Gravity Research. To win the ultimate cat-skiing experience at Monarch Mountain, plus a pair of next year’s Blizzard skis and Tecnica boots, contestants had to make a convincing pitch on why they needed to be rescued from their cubicle. In the end, Rochester, New York-based high school guidance counselor Andy Fleming was chosen as the winner of the contest.
“[Winning this contest] will be a concrete example of awesome people getting after it in the great outdoors,” wrote Andy Fleming in his 200-word contest entry. “I will be able to share with my students that actually winning the lottery is truly sharing amazing experiences with friends and family. Cat skiing will lead to powder lines. Not illegal powder lines. The powder lines that nature has given us. Powder skiing is the best natural high.”

Monarch Mountain Cat Skiing

Fleming hit the jackpot by winning the TGR and Tec/Blizz contest. “That was one of the best ski days I’ve ever had,” said Andy Fleming. “I get to go back to my students in New York with some incredible stories.”

So, if you’re looking for a ski experience that blends a throwback atmosphere with unreal terrain and no pretense, add Monarch Mountain to your ski spot bucket list.

Your-CAT-ticket-gets-you-a-FREE-apres-beer-in-MonarchYour cat-skiing ticket gets you a FREE apres beer.

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