The flakes were rapidly falling and the powder was piling up when we recently made our drive over Monarch Pass, on our way to Gunnison for hockey games. We decided to drop in on the popular Colorado ski area for lunch. Cars were parked all the way out to the highway, as we turned in looking for a parking spot. Cars along the front rows were already buried in snow, but some skiers were scraping them off, and heading home. They had already had their fill of a few hours of pow pow at Monarch.

We learned that's the trick. Stagger your visit. Get there early in the morning, or come early afternoon. Avoid the 10 a.m. rush. You'll definitely get a parking spot if you're there before the lifts start running, or come a bit after lunch time and enjoy an afternoon of fun on the slopes.

Lunchtime can be crazy in the base lodge. Every table was filled when we visited Monarch. But the wait wasn't long. Keep an eye out for who is getting their ski clothes back on and ask if you can wait for their table. Send half of your group through the food line, and a couple can scout for tables. Bring a bag lunch and eat outside at a picnic table, if the weather allows. Or stagger your lunch. Eat a little earlier, at 11 a.m. Or snack on a power bar late morning, and then head down for your break a little later, at about 1 p.m. You're sure to find a spot.

Greg Ralph with Monarch says Pinball is still a favorite run of every kid at the resort. It's this bumpy path through the trees that every kid loves, and every parent has to bounce along after them. Don't miss it on your next visit.