As one of the oldest ski Areas in the nation Monarch Mountain was established in 1939 with a tree and rock removal project that created Monarch’s first run.  Gunbarrel was Monarch’s only run with a rope tow to the top.  Since then Monarch has grown to over 69 runs and back country options that only the original founder, Ray Berry, could dream of.  Fittingly, the tree removal projects have taken on a whole new light.  The San Isabel National forest has been affected by a Spruce Beetle infestation that is killing a large percentage the forest and Monarch Mountain has not been exempt from that process. Over 80 percent of Monarch Mountain’s trees will die over the next several years.  Many have already died and are being removed by Monarch, but it is tough to find any avid skier who is upset about it. 

 

The Spruce beetle does not affect the smaller trees, so all is not lost.  With the larger trees removed from the tree islands, the skiing opportunities through those new gladed areas is remarkable. “We were quite nervous about the affect such radical tree removal would have on the mountain but have been pleasantly surprised to how much more open the mountain is for our guests. It became clear to us that this isn’t a dead tree problem, this is a fantastic rebirth and expansion of skiable terrain,” said Monarch General Manager, Randy Stroud.

 

 

This is the definition of making lemonade out of lemons. Not only is the mountain becoming more enjoyable, but fire hazards have been significantly reduced.  Monarch is recycling the beetle-kill trees to produce snow fencing that will take the place of what the trees used to do.  Monarch is also working with a local manufacturer of skis (Meier Skis) to produce skis made from Monarch’s dead trees, which brings a whole new take on “skiing the trees.”

 

“To tell you the truth,” says Stroud, “I won’t miss this cacophony of chainsaws all day, but this Mountain is more beautiful than it has ever been. And although this year we are turning 80, it’s never felt younger”