Westword's Guide to teh '96-'97 ski and snowboard season

Monarch Ski and Snowboard Area
Tim Wyatt thinks Monarch is serious about snowboarders. "Well, first of all, they changed their name this year to 'Ski and Snowboard Area,'" he says. "I think that's the first resort to embrace 'boarding in such a positive way." And second of all, he points to himself. "I'm director of the ski patrol," he says. "And now and then I ride a 'board in uniform." Wyatt, 38, adds that snowboarders definitely like to see one of their own kind on patrol. "I started skiing when I was four," says Wyatt, who was born and raised in Canon City. "But once I got past those first few days of snowboarding, I was hooked."

Wyatt says most snowboarders at Monarch seem to head to the Garfield Lift. "There are a lot of wide trees there," he says. And he adds that 'boarders and skiers alike love Monarch's Great Divide Sno-Cat Tours. "I'm not just trying to plug them for the resort or anything," Wyatt says. "There's 900 acres of steeps and glades and great cornice-jumping that hopefully will all one day be served by a lift. But for now, they only take twelve people in there at a time, so you've got all that stuff to yourselves."

On the lift-served parts of the mountain, Wyatt offers up Kanonen as the run nearest and dearest to his heart. "It's got a consistent fall line all the way down, there's not as much traffic on it, and there are always nice little stashes," he says. For cruising, he loves "bombing down Little Mo," the run where Monarch holds it GS races, and thinks the best bumps are visible on Mirage. "Mirage is wide, and it seems to get the most consistent lines down through it," Wyatt says. He adds that Frazzle is similar.

Wyatt says the most famous run at Monarch is called Gunbarrel, which he says used to be served by a rope tow. "It's one of the oldest runs in Colorado," he says. "My dad used to ski it when you brought gas for the rope-tow motor, and that was your lift ticket." Things have changed quite a bit, as Monarch gets ready to put a half-pipe in for 'boarders. "We also have great trees here for the snowboarders," Wyatt says. "Places like Toddler and Tango, the trees off there are excellent. You can bomb through those trees without getting bottlenecked." He also declares Curecanti cornice as another popular shredder zone. "I don't know why they love to go at it, but they do," he says.

The tired, thirsty and hungry go at the Yukon Tavern at the Monarch General Store (22455 South Highway 50) in Garfield, which is three miles from the mountain. "The ex-patrol director bought this place and made it into a great hangout," says Wyatt. "There's a deli, where you can get cheap sandwiches, and good Mexican food off a steamer table." Farther down the road in Salida, which is 25 minutes from the mountain, Il Vicino's (136 East Second Street) brewpub serves "delicious wood-fired pizzas and great calzones, and the salads are even good." Wyatt also gets a kick out of the Laughing Ladies (128 West First), where he orders the "really good hummus and pasta with a twist." No good burgers, he says--"I wish there were"--but "Gourmet Chef [710 Milford] out on the highway stir-fries some mean Chinese." And while first thing in the morning he's inclined to stop at the First Street Cafe (137 East First) for apple cake and huevos, the last place he often sees is The Victoria Tavern (143 North F Street). "It's been there since the Twenties," Wyatt says. "They have a band every weekend, and during the winter there's no cover if you have a lift ticket from Monarch."

General information: 1-719-539-2581, 1-719-539-3573, or 1-888-996-SNOW
Snow report: 1-800-228-7943
Location: 175 miles southwest of Denver via U.S. Hwy. 285 to U.S. Hwy. 50 on Monarch Pass.

Opening and closing dates: November 23 to April 6.
Hours: 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
Terrain: 21% beginner, 37% intermediate, 42% advanced. 670 developed acres with a 1,160' vertical drop. Base: 10,790'; top: 11,950'; longest run: 2 miles.

Lifts: 4 double chairs.
Lift rates: Adult full-day $31; child (7-12) full-day $18; seniors (62-69) $18.

Lessons: Adult group lessons: 4 hours $37, 2 hours $25. Private lessons $42/hour. Beginner package: 2-hour lesson, full-day lift ticket and rental $43; child group lesson: lift ticket, lunch, 4-hour lesson and rental $65. For information call 1-719-539-3573 or 1-888-996-SNOW.

Rentals: Adult $11;child $8. Call 1-888-996-SNOW or 1-719-539-3573 for
Snowboarding: Welcome. Snowboard park. Lessons and rentals available. Snowboard package: Lift ticket, lesson, and rental $53. Rental only $22.

Cross-country: Lessons $31 with own equipment. No rentals at area.
Special events: NASTAR races, church services every Sunday, avalanche safety course, snowboard series, business league races, Sno-Cat trips; Torchlight Parade, Dec. 31; Valentine's Day Race, Feb. 14.

Brian Langfitt is a victim of the legendary Ute Indian curse. "I was living in Iowa and going nowhere fast when my sister invited me to Grand Junction to check the place out," Langfitt says. "Around here they say that Grand Valley is haunted, and anyone who comes in never leaves. Well, here it's been twenty years now for me." Part of the attraction for him, though, came down to a matter of pride. "I was nineteen then, and I had been in Colorado less than 24 hours when all these people said, 'Let's go skiing.' So here I was, an athletic farm boy from Iowa, and I wound up walking down a run that day. That made me mad."

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