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Monarch Mountain, Colorado

Written by Greg and Heather Burke

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.  It's 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 terrains, 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 patrol gates. 

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 micro brew beer taps. 

Monarch has big plans for expansion to add an additional chairlift on the backside, but being on 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 Colorado.

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.

Elevation

Base
10789 feet
Base
Summit
11952 feet
Summit
Vertical Drop
1163 feet
Vertical Drop

Lifts

Quad Chair
1
Quad Chair
Double Chairs
4
Double Chairs
Surface Lift
1
Surface Lift

Terrain

Beginner Runs
23 %
Beginner Runs
Intermediate Runs
28 %
Intermediate Runs
Advanced Runs
36 %
Advanced Runs
Expert Runs
13 %
Expert Runs
Total Runs
64
Total Runs
Terrain Parks
2
Terrain Parks
Longest Run
1 mile
Longest Run
Skiable Terrain
800 acres
Skiable Terrain

Opening and closing dates

Season Open Date Close Date
2017/2018 11/23/2017 04/13/2018 (estimated)
2016/2017 12/02/2016 04/16/2017
2015/2016 11/20/2015 04/10/2016
2014/2015 11/27/2014 04/12/2015

Lift ticket and season pass prices

Category Age restrictions Price (USD unless otherwise stated)
Adult 18 - 61 $89
Child 6 & under Free
Child 7 - 12 $43
Child 13 - 17 $59
Senior 62 - 68 $59
Season Pass $479

Overall Rating

4.6 / 5 Superb

based on 14 reviews

How accessible and convenient it is to get to this resort from a major destination

Accessibility

Availability, quality and pricing of lodging

Lodging

How well the resort caters for beginner skiers / boarders

Beginners

How well the resort caters for intermediate skiers / boarders?

Intermediates

How well the resort caters for advanced skiers / boarders

Advanced

Quality of the off-piste terrain

Side/Backcountry

Overall value for money of the resort

Value for money

Quality of lifts, lift speed and lift layout in the resort

Lifts

Quantity and quality of the snow

Snow

How uncrowded is the resort

Uncrowded

Après ski and dining options

Town

Services and facilities e.g. child care, tubing, health care, equipment hire

Facilities

How family friendly is this resort?

Family Friendliness

Latest reviews

Score: 4.2 / 5Nov 24, 2017
I have only ridden monarch for two days. The snow was fantastic and there was plenty of steep deep terrain to explore. I will definitely return to ride monarch in the ... More
Collin J. advanced snowboarder
Score: 3.9 / 5Nov 20, 2017
Absolutely love this mountain. People are super friendly, no lift lines, and plenty of terrain to explore for beginners all the way to advanced skiers/snowboarders. You get more than you pay for at this ... More
Zeb F. advanced skier
Score: 4.5 / 5Nov 18, 2017
An all around favorite for many locals and visitors. Taught myself to ride here and I'll always recommend it for any rider at any level especially if you love getting a lot of runs ... More
Mark E. beginner snowboarder
Score: 4.4 / 5Nov 09, 2017
This is by far my favorite resort in colorado. Monarch mountain is the place I learned to snowboard with easy runs for beginners and fast runs for intermediate riders and back country riding if that's more your style. Friendly staff all the way around from the bar to the lifts. ... More
Devin intermediate snowboarder
Score: 4 / 5Nov 08, 2017
Great down to earth Mountain providing family-friendly fun. The wait to open is more often worth it for the quality of all natural snow. Prices have been raised a bit too much in the last few years in my opinion for the season pass. ... More
Jordan K. expert skier
Score: 5 / 5Oct 25, 2017
Great resort for first timers and learning. Enjoy my time while riding the slopes. Friendly and professional staff always eager to help when called upon. Really good snow and powder.
Howard F.
Score: 5 / 5Oct 21, 2017
Wake up in the morning and check the snow. Pack up the Jeep and we're ready to go. We're taking 50 West for 30 miles. I look to my side and see my daughter smile!!! Cause it's Monarch baby gonna ski all day Yippee Yip. Yippee Yip
William D.
Score: 5 / 5Oct 12, 2017
i live in pueblo colorado and monarch is about an hour from us,this mountain we go to about 15 times per season and it gets exspencive. this ticket would make life so much
Blake V.
Score: 5 / 5Oct 08, 2017
Love this place! If you can catch a weekday when it’s dumping, you’ll own your own piece of heaven! Wolf Creek without the 4 hour car ride. Summit county pow without the snobs and
Wade S.
Score: 5 / 5Oct 08, 2017
Awesome powder, no lines, and a terrific mountain to board down. A little out of the way but worth the drive every day. A must for all levels on the
Cole L.