Mighty Monarch: Go where the snow is

Tuesday morning, I headed out in search of finding snow. First stop: Monarch Mountain.

While the Front Range is still a fair bit bony, parts of southwestern Colorado have gotten pounded. Monarch Mountain, located near the top of Monarch Pass on Highway 50, has a modest vertical drop of 1,162 feet and 800 acres of skiing.

Monarch is in many ways a time warp. There are no quads, no high speed detachable lifts. Double chairs whisk skiers to the different summits. The base area, which has a nice bar where we went for an après snack and beverage, lacks the glitz of places like Vail, but has a charm the big areas lack.

Snow coverage at Monarch was very good -- not deep powder, but runs that were soft without needing a cat. Moguls abounded on the expert runs, and small hucks could be found on many of the runs off the Panorama lift.

The best part of the day was the 20 minute hike up to Mirkwood Bowl to access a chute with some not quite powder snow and a small drop in from a cornice at the top. Standing above the chute, a stunning 360-degree vista greeted the eye, with views of the San Juans to the southwest and the Collegiate Peaks to the east.

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