Monarch Ski Area is in southern Colorado, so it is more easily accessible to the southern states. But it's also an easy drive from the Front Range, if you want to avoid the I-70 traffic.
It's one of the "Colorado Gems," which means it is a little smaller, and a little easier when you're hauling the kids around. You can park right at the base area. All runs funnel back down to the main lodge, so it's easy to stick with your family.
There are 63 trails on the mountain, with 14 percent designated as beginner, 28 percent intermediate, 27 percent advanced, and 31 percent expert.
Monarch sits high along the Continental Divide, with the base at 10,790 feet, and the summit just under 12,000 feet in elevation. The San Juans are in view in one direction with Pike's Peak off to the east.
One great run on the mountain is such a secret, it isn't even marked on the trail map. But it is easily a favorite of everyone who has ever skied it, including me and my family. It's called Pinball. It's a zippy little run through the trees, but it is wide enough to take some turns, and not too steep where you get too much speed. You'll find it at the bottom of Turbo and at the top of Sleepy Hollow, where they merge. There is a ditch on your left. Look for the opening through the trees and let 'em rip.
Freeriders will love the K2 Organic Terrain Park. The tricks are all natural, such as logs, and tabletops. Other parks are the Rocochet and Aftershock terrain parks.
Monarch also offers snowcat tours on over 1,000 acres of backcountry terrain, high atop the Continental Divide. Both the Gunnison National Forest on the west side of the divide and the San Isabel National Forest are in Monarch's cat terrain. There is an extra charge. You'll need to call Monarch to reserve your snowcat tour at 888-996-7669 x 5040, or 719-530-5040.
Lodging and restaurants are plentiful in nearby Salida. Prices are reasonable, too. The Salida Super 8 Motel on Highway 50 offers a package deal for lodging, skiing, and a Continental Breakfast. Their number is 719-539-6689. Stop at Amicas for dinner, if you're there. Their pizzas, and Italian menu are a local favorite, and everything was delicious.