- Remote location keep crowds to a minimum
- Variety of intermediate and beginner trails
- Designated hike-to backcountry terrain
- Incredible views of surrounding mountain ranges
- Affordable lift tickets compared to larger Colorado ski resorts
- Expert runs are short and limited to the backcountry area
- Majority of lifts are two-seaters
- Remote location (3-3.5 hours from Denver)
- No lodging at base and limited lodging nearby
- On-mountain dining limited to the base area
Monarch Mountain, located in South Central Colorado, offers 800 ac 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.
Late February to early March.
Denver International Airport
Monarch Mountain (3.5 hours)
Monarch (3-5 mi)
- Closest area with lodging, less than 10 minutes drive away
- Limited accommodation
- Has some lodges, condos and cabins
Salida (20-25 mi)
- More accommodation options than Monarch
- Approximately 30 minutes drive away
- More dining options than Monarch
Beginners will love the variety of runs Monarch provides with most trails sitting below the treeline and protected from the wind. The beginner area near the base is a good place for never-evers to start off. The runs off Pioneer Quad chairlift has some of the best green trails including Sleepy Hollow or hop aboard the Panorama Lift to Skywalker for stunning mountaintop views.
Intermediates will find plenty of blues across the mountain but intermediate-advanced skiers looking to test their skills should try out some of the black runs around. Start off on the more achievable Mirage and Kanonen before taking it to the next level on High Anxiety and JR's, both ungroomed 30-degree slopes!
Advanced/experts won't find many challenging runs for them inbounds. Examiner and Christmas Tree off the Garfield lift or the steep and mogul filled runs off Panorama lift are best for advanced skiers and riders. Experts, on the other hand, will have to hike their way to the Mirkwood backcountry area for the most challenging terrain here.
Freshies can be easily found, but only for those willing to hike. Inbounds, the best spot to find the best stuff is on Gunbarrel. It's quite a hike from the Pioneer lift which means it sees less traffic so freshies stay untracked for longer. Otherwise over in the Mirkwood backcountry area is where most of the untouched powder can be found.
Ditch the crowds
You won't have the ditch the crowds here because there are none! Monarch has minimal to no lift lines plus the chairlifts are fast! If there are any queues, they'll most likely be on a weekend and on the Breezeway lift and Panorama lift, which serve most of the advanced and expert terrain including the Mirkwood backcountry area.
Besides the uphill trails on the mountain and snowmobile tours nearby, non-skiers won't find much to entertain themselves at Monarch Mountain, considering there is no ski town. There are also no warming huts on the mountain meaning the small base lodge can get crowded with skiers and riders; which isn't very ideal for non-skiers to hang in.
The trails off the Panorama lift and Pioneer lift are generally the most popular among families with plenty of green and blue trails off both. Those looking to ride up the mountain together should take the Panorama lift, it's the only quad in the resort. Monarch's reasonably priced lift tickets also make it a budget-friendly option for families.
|Monarch Mountain||Arapahoe Basin|
|beginner||23 %||10 %|
|intermediate||28 %||30 %|
|advanced||36 %||37 %|
|expert||13 %||23 %|
|child lift ticket||Free||Free|
|adult lift ticket||$89||$100|
|value for money|
|average total snowfall||170″||179″|