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getting in touch with my inner colorado girl

Monarch Mania


If I had to choose one favorite thing from my ski trip to Monarch Mountain this past weekend it would probably be a toss-up between the Pueblo ski crowd or the Nascar bunk bed that I slept in one night. Don’t make me choose! On a more serious note, it would actually be hard for me to choose a favorite highlight from Monarch Mountain. The soft, powdery snow? The welcome lack of cell phone reception? What ski traffic?

denver-salida-map-485x402The details.

For my non-Colorado friends, Monarch Mountain is probably a relatively unknown destination. Heck, it is even a relatively unknown destination in Colorado! This all precisely why it is an awesome place to ski. It’s located about 2 1/2 hours away from Denver just past Salida, which means it’s just far enough away to not attract hoards of Front Range skiers every weekend. When the Rocky Mountain Super Pass announced it was adding three days of skiing at Monarch Mountain to the season pass this year, Graham’s family was all over planning a big cabin weekend with family friends to check it out. This is why I get along so well with Graham’s family!

This past weekend, 18 of us loaded up and headed to a house near Monarch to stay for the weekend. I rode up with Graham’s parents because it’s normal to go on road trips with your boyfriend’s parents right? (Hi Ray and Janie!) We had a lovely time driving on 285 to Monarch and stopped at a bowling alley in Fairplay for burgers. We ended up being the first people to reach the house we were staying at for the weekend, a “renovated” schoolhouse in Garfield, Colorado. I use the word renovated loosely, because we are fairly sure it was last renovated in 1972.

IMG_0002Shower curtain cats.

IMG_0003Living room view. Don’t worry, the fireplace is just for looks.

Luckily we’re all a pretty serious ski crowd, so the house was perfect for the group. It was five minutes away from Monarch and cheap enough for us to just find the cat shower curtains endearing. The beds we slept in were not as endearing, and I actually moved from an incredibly uncomfortable full-size bed to a bunk bed with a Nascar bed spread in the middle of the night to try and get some sleep. Good thing I love skiing!

On Saturday morning we all woke up ready to hit the slopes. Amazingly our huge group stuck together for at least the first three runs. Keeping that many people together on a mountain is an impressive feat! I was immediately struck by how big the mountain was. I mean it certainly was not the size of Vail, but it was much bigger than I had been expecting and we found a lot of fun terrain. About 5 inches of snow had fallen the day before, so the snow was soft and powdery.

IMG_0001Fresh lines.

It was actually still snowing all day on Saturday and a bit windy but conditions were great overall. The mountain really had a lot to offer all levels of skiers, and we found some really good turns off of a cornice at the edge of the resort. It was nice for a big group too because it was basically impossible to lose anyone. After a long day of skiing we headed back to the house for a big dinner of lasagna.

The next morning we somehow all managed to eat breakfast, clean the kitchen, pack up the house and still be on the ski slopes by 9:30. We only had a half day of skiing on Sunday which meant that we had a lot of mountain to fit in! The Mirkwood area, a hikable basin with trees, had been closed on Saturday because of wind, and I set out with Graham and a few others to check it out. I have hiked many bowls before but I definitely think this was one of the steeper hikes I have done. It also could have been the multiple glasses of wine and Coors Banquets from the night before talking.

IMG_0004Top of Mirkwood with Graham.

Mirkwood was a lot of fun but since we were on such a limited time schedule we didn’t want to spend a lot of time hiking. We moved on to skiing some trees near Mirkwood, which also had excellent snow.

IMG_0014Clouds briefly clearing over the Collegiate Peaks in the distance.

The sun came out for a little while, but the clouds never cleared all weekend. My one disappointment is that I never really got to see a complete view at Monarch. I guess I’ll have to return?!

IMG_0017Sunny trees.

IMG_0021One of the final few runs.

All in all, it was an awesome weekend on a newly discovered awesome mountain. And hey, next time you are sitting in six hours worth of ski traffic on I-70 just remember – you could be skiing right now at Monarch!


Author: paulamahla

Typical Colorado girl that can't make up her mind. Trail running, hiking, climbing, camping, CrossFit, ultimate frisbee, and skiing? E, all of the above.

2 thoughts on “Monarch Mania

  1. My neighbors ALWAYS ski Monarch and swear by it. I mean, if it’s only 2.5 hrs away, it’s the same time in the car as Vail, right?! I’ve never been but dying to check it out!

  2. This is the closest ski resort to my parents so it is actually the only thing I ever ski in Colorado and I love it. One of the old men from my parent’s church – Bernie – is like 85 and still a ski instructor there!! Glad y’all enjoyed it!

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