by: Greg Smith - 9th January 2014

  • 5
  • Beginner
  • Intermediate
  • Expert
  • 5All-Mtn. Terrain
  • 5Family Friendly
  • 2Aprés Ski
  • 5Terrain Park
  • Overall Value
Great, natural snow, great terrain, fun staff, excellent attitude
Older lifts aren't fast; vertical is a bit limited

Full review

I am a huge fan of Monarch. It's affordable. It's relatively easy to reach (despite its altitude and occasionally tough roads). The snow is about the best you'll find, most of the time, with awesome powder when the storms blow. The "Monarch Cloud" is famous for hanging around, even as others are suntanning in the valleys. While Monarch's trees and steeps are among the best you'll find, the blue groomers are quite nice, too. But know that grooming rotates a bit, day to day, especially during the week. Check the report or be ready for a few bumps. While Monarch is an expert-skier's dream, they haven't forgotten beginners. The rental center is efficient and friendly. Most instructors are quite good. And the enclosed Caterpillar lift is perfect for those not ready for the chair. Right beside it is the short Tumbelina lift, which is carefully staffed and leads to some nice greens that help folks progress. The fact that all slopes lead to the base lodge makes it easy to keep track of family and friends. Weekdays, as with most drive-in resorts, are the time to come. I've owned the mountain on many afternoons. When it's not crowded or if you roll in early, you can park right by the slopes in the new section of the lot, and bathrooms are strategically placed around the base area. You have lifties who will recognize and check up on you as you make run after run with no lines. Did I mention they're fun? Listen for Mario whooping from the top of the mountain as he carefully - dancing occasionally - maintains a safe, groomed ramp. Say hey to Connie who runs the Panorama - year after year - like a mother hen. Speaking of lines, I don't know what the complaint was about line management. Real, laid-back, but efficient, focused people work at Monarch. They treat you like people, not cattle, helping balance the opportunities when things are crowded, and sweeping snow off chairs before they bump them as you load. Someone mentioned theft. I've never seen it (in some 100 skiing days). In fact, I've had both lost iPhones and seasons passes found and returned. One night I left my skis on a rack. They were there the next day. But there are plenty of lock-friendly racks and lockers for the insecure. There is no snow making, so October is pretty much out. But on the other hand, you won't break your noggin on concrete beneath a foot of pow-pow in January. Food and drink are good and not too pricey. The best bargain is ultimate nachos (serves two to three) in the Sidewinder Saloon. But Monarch is not a resort. It's 1,000 or so vertical feet (most runs are 800 to 900 vertical, unless you hike higher), at high altitude (base is about 10,600 feet), in the National Forest, with amazing views from the Continental Divide, catching storms from northwest to due south, serving some great craft beers, but sending you on down the hill by 5:30 or so. Not that down the hill is rotten. Salida to the east and Gunnison to the west are two of my favorite towns - anywhere. Good meals. Good, affordable lodging. Plenty of good times. And great attitudes. If you want more, go pay $120 and wait 15 minutes for your high-speed quad in Summit County, so you can dodge bunnies on the hill. We'll be hanging out Monarch, enjoying the view, the friendly laid-back atmosphere, great powder and Tommy Knocker Porter in the Sidewinder.
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