Get Out! Monarch offers awesome skiing for all levels
Recently we took a ski trip to explore some resorts around the state. We made a nice loop, staying in Gunnison for two nights, to ski Crested Butte and then Monarch, then moving on to Frisco and a trip to Vail.
Although Crested Butte was underwhelming and Vail was, as expected, jaw-dropping, the surprise favorite for us was Monarch. If you get the chance to ski there, take it.
We planned our trip around mountains for which we knew we could get discounted tickets. Crested Butte partners with Powderhorn to offer 50 percent off tickets to pass-holders. Monarch has a variety of options for discounts, including purchasing tickets online or using Shell gas station’s ski free program. With that, if you buy 10 gallons of gas, you can get a coupon for “2 for the price of 1” tickets to various resorts, including Powderhorn and Monarch.
Monarch’s walk-up day rate is $65. So, with the Shell coupon, each person’s ticket is only $32.50. We have friends who work for Vail resorts and were able to get discounted tickets to ski there as well.
We drove to Gunnison after work on a Friday and skied at Crested Butte on Saturday. For whatever reason, be it weather, the types of runs available, lack of familiarity with the mountain, we weren’t that impressed with Crested Butte as a ski destination. We decided to just keep it on our list of favorite summer destinations.
On Sunday we packed up and headed to Monarch. I had a good feeling about Monarch. All week long I had been saying, “We’re going to love that mountain, I just know it!”
The gravel and dirt parking lot filled up fast, and as we were standing in line to redeem our online ticket purchase, we heard people saying, “Wow, it’s busy today,” and, “I almost didn’t get a parking space.” From what I can tell, there is no overflow parking at Monarch. I have no idea what you’d do if you got there and the lot was full, so plan to get there early.
Monarch’s base area is easy to learn. There is one building for rentals and ski lessons, a ski patrol shack and a main lodge. Out front there are four lifts spread out across the slope. Although some are called advanced or beginner, many of them access a wide variety of terrain. There is a covered magic carpet for beginners as well.
As we looked up at the mountain, we wanted to ski it all. Looking left, there were lots of blue and black groomed runs, plus several glades. Looking right, there was a huge bowl, and beyond our line of sight was the steeper hike-to area: Mirkwood Bowl.
We were stoked. We hopped on the Garfield lift, and as we rode up we just kept pointing to various runs and glades that looked fun to ski. They were everywhere. Kanonen, Cleaner, Upper No Name, everywhere we looked were great steep blacks runs, glades and groomers. I think we were on our second run off this lift when one of us yelled, “This mountain is awesome!”
Soon we made our way down some runs and across to the advanced lift, Breezeway. Because there wasn’t any new snow, we didn’t think hiking into Mirkwood Bowl was worth it, but we did hike just past the terrain park and skied down the edge of a run called Southbound and then into another glade called Geno’s Meadows.
Nicely spaced evergreens and a perfect pitch guided us back down to the bottom, and we immediately glided into the lift line again. This time we were headed for the bowl area left of the Breezeway lift. We cruised off the lift and, after a little bit of pushing, were standing at the edge of an awesome wide-open bowl.
We dropped in, skiing arcs through the soft snow down to a run called Shagnasty. In and out of trees, over a few bumps, this bowl and this mountain seemed to offer it all.
By 3 o’clock we were back at the car, and I was sad. It was the first time in a long while that I truly hadn’t wanted to stop skiing. Every run of the 11 we skied was more fun than the one before it, and if I could have, I would have skied until the lifts stopped.
I think what makes Monarch such a great gem is the management’s focus on the hill. Monarch has no gimmicks. There are no tubing hills or night skiing. There aren’t any midmountain restaurants, and there is only one, very out-of-the-way terrain park.
What do they have? They have a lodge, two quads and several fast-moving double lifts, and great terrain. There are groomers, glades with spaced-out trees, runs free of brush and debris, and fast lifts to access it all.
Beginners, intermediate skiers and certainly advanced skiers will find something to enjoy at Monarch.
If you get the chance, get out and ski Monarch.
Visit http://www.skimonarch.com for more information.