Monarch Mountain is open.
Monarch Mountain is open.
Courtesy of Monarch Mountain

Monarch Mountain Is Open: Here's What's New in 2016

Depending on how you look at things, we either got a lovely extended fall or were robbed of primo skiing due to unseasonably warm weather. If your thinking falls into the latter camp, you'll be glad to know that resorts are finally opening – and offering more than ever.

In this year's edition of Edge, our snow-activities guide to resorts in Colorado, we've told you about what’s new at every major ski area in the state, must-do experiences and insider tips. We’ve also done our own tireless research all over the state and reached out to some experts for suggestions on how to make the most of it all, whether you’re looking to drop some coin for something special or just trying to get by as a dirtbag ski bum like the rest of us. Today, we check out Monarch Mountain, which opened on December 2.

MONARCH MOUNTAIN
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What’s new: The surging popularity of alpine ski touring and splitboarding prompted Monarch to add three designated uphill travel routes this season, allowing guests to trek from the base area to the top of the Continental Divide.

Signature experience: “For those with more of an adventurous urge and expert abilities, the hike terrain in Mirkwood Basin is a must-do,” says spokeswoman Alison Nestel-Patt. “This short hike, fifteen minutes from the top of the Breezeway lift, provides access to an additional 130 acres of chutes, bowls, glades, tree runs and more.”

Insider info: Stay in Salida and bring extra cash to expand your art collection: There are now more than two dozen galleries and artist studios in the town (check out the full list at salida.com).

Splurge: Head beyond Mirkwood Basin by booking a seat on a snowcat with Monarch Cat Skiing ($275 in the early or late season, $375 in the peak season between January 9-March 26), which includes use of an avalanche beacon and some basic backcountry safety training on how to use it before heading out for a day of making fresh tracks.

Ski bum tips: “Monarch’s lowest prices can be locked in before you even get to the mountain by purchasing lift tickets and rentals ahead of time,” Nestel-Patt recommends. “A single-day ticket for an adult is $84 at the window, but if bought online, it’s only $69, one of the lowest prices in the region.” For inexpensive lodging, look into the Simple Lodge & Hostel of Salida at simplelodge.com. College students can take advantage of a $269 discounted College Student Pass, with all the same perks as regular season passes, including free days at Copper Mountain, Loveland, Sunlight Mountain, Crested Butte and fifteen other partner mountains. “Ten dollars from each College Student Pass will be donated to Big City Mountaineers, a nonprofit based in Golden that is focused on transforming the lives of underserved urban youth through mentored wilderness expeditions that instill critical life skills,” Nestel-Patt says.

Drink local: Colorado brews are heavily featured at the Sidewinder Saloon and Elmo’s Bar, both in the main lodge at the base area. “Beer lovers should head to Elevation Beer Company, an acclaimed craft brewery with a selection of year-round brews, seasonals, Belgian ales and barrel-aged beers,” Nestel-Patt says. Elevation is at 115 Pahlone Parkway in Poncha Springs. “Try the Little Mo’ porter, named after the Little Mo’ run on Monarch Mountain. For those interested in more than just beer, Wood’s High Mountain Distillery has you covered. This local company is the maker of small-batch, handcrafted whiskey, gin and liquor, and the tasting room is open until 10 p.m.”

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