Words and photos: Larry NuÃ±ez, except above photo by Brian Nelson.
When most people think of Colorado Resorts, places like Breckenridge, Vail, and Aspen usually come to mind. Resorts that lie along the I-70 corridor, host major events and cater to thousands of skiers and snowboarders every day. But the truth is, the best places to go in Colorado arenât resorts at all, but simply mountains. They are off the beaten path, they donât have high-speed quads or fancy hotels and condos everywhere, and by virtue of their geographical settings, they also happen to get the most snow. Monarch Mountain is one of these places.
Tucked away on Monarch Pass, which sits almost dead center of the state, Monarch Mountain is another misty localâs favorite, with minimal crowds, affordable lift tickets and plenty of snow. In fact, the last couple storms that have rolled through Colorado created a circulation (mini storm) in the central and southern mountains which resulted in Monarch getting about 4 feet of fresh in four days! While those totals are usually more common at Wolf Creek, Monarch won this round and all signs pointed to go for a deep powder day last weekend.
The drive from Denver is about 160 miles, and though technically it may be a bit longer than shooting up to Summit County, the lack of traffic and the southwestern scenery make it a way more desirable option. In fact, when Boulderâs Brian Nelson and I left Denver early Saturday morning, the sky was clear and Hwy 285 was smooth sailing all the way down. We arrived to the mountain on a bluebird powder day, but another system moved in around 10:30 am and it quickly turned into a full on snowstorm, with fat flakes falling for the rest of the day. No problem with me, Iâll take dumping over sunny any time.
We spent all day ripping around Monarchâs un-groomed terrain, finding tons of powder stashes in the trees, off short hikes and sometimes, right under the chairlift! There are tons of nooks and crannies to discover, as well as little bumps, hits and cat tracks all over the place. We even found a cliff band in the woods! Itâs kind of like one big skate park, and the snow was so deep that we rode all afternoon until our legs couldnât take anymore. Given the conditions on the hill, we expected a bit of a rough drive home, but the mountains had sucked in the storm like a magnet and once we got down off the pass, it was completely sunny and dry down in the valley. Gotta love days like thatâ¦ Of course, the blizzard eventually moved through the Front Range on Sunday and left Monarch behind with another foot or so of new snow. If youâre anywhere in the area, go there now and get some.
For more info check out [url=http://www.monarchmountain.com]monarchmountain.com[/url] and see more photos on vanssnow.tumblr.com.