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Monarch March 7th-10th - tentatively, unless other, better recommendations here?

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 

Hi all,

 

Have the airfare and room already booked.  I'm flying into Colorado Springs and renting a car from there.  I'm going with my brother and  he has suggested skiing Monarch.  We will both be skiing black and double black: bumps, trees, etc.  I've never been to Colorado skiing (only Utah), but he has been there a few times.  He was thinking this would be a nice place to go and hopefully get away from the weekend crowds (wishful thinking?).  We will both bring our boots and rent ski's there, as we are both Minnesotan's and have your typical hard-snow/ice  ski's.  Anyhow, if there are any better recommendations that members would have, I'd be happy to hear them.  Thanks in advance.  

post #2 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kdawg1966 View Post
 

Hi all,

 

Have the airfare and room already booked.  I'm flying into Colorado Springs and renting a car from there.  I'm going with my brother and  he has suggested skiing Monarch.  We will both be skiing black and double black: bumps, trees, etc.  I've never been to Colorado skiing (only Utah), but he has been there a few times.  He was thinking this would be a nice place to go and hopefully get away from the weekend crowds (wishful thinking?).  We will both bring our boots and rent ski's there, as we are both Minnesotan's and have your typical hard-snow/ice  ski's.  Anyhow, if there are any better recommendations that members would have, I'd be happy to hear them.  Thanks in advance.

 

Monarch is one of my favorite places to ski, but you need to make sure it matches your expectations.

 

1. Crowds should not be an issue in March. Monarch attracts a fair bit of flatlander/church youth group type traffic on holidays (but still not generally crowded) but by March it should be very, very uncrowded.

 

2. Monarch's biggest drawback is that it is a very short mountain- 1100 vert, and really you only get 900 or less off of any 1 lift. The good news is that on most black runs the 900 vert is a consistent pitch right down the fall line. Just expect a lot of runs to be over before you want them to be.  This may not be that big of a deal for folks from Minnesota- The shorter vert on the steep stuff may do a lot for confidence getting it in the smaller chunks.

 

3. Lift served, Monarch has a ton of solid advanced terrain.  The steepest lift-served stuff is skiers left of Panorama, followed by the stuff off of Garfield. Gunbarrel requires a short hike but is generally worth it.

 

4. The Mirkwood area is absolutely worth the hike during and a few days after a solid powder day. Mirkwood bowl is steep and fairly tight, Orcs is mellower and more open, Elation Ridge is almost always a safe bet for untracked. Staircase is the steepest, most technical stuff at Monarch- it is generally chutes in between some cliff shots. Lodgeview is a great tree run that keeps snow for a long time.

 

5.  Curecanti, Shagnasty, and Outback are great runs to hit on a powder day, but they are all sun exposed and mank up pretty good once they see a few sunny days.

 

6. There are some decent fast groomed crusiers here. Mirage and Turbo are normally groomed down 1 side, and are some of the best. B's Bash is another. Little Mo is fun, but a lot milder.

 

7. Nobody skis Monarch trees. Few people even ski the advanced runs.  Gunbarrel Trees (in between Tele Alley and Gunbarrel) are some of the best. Sheer Rock O trees are very good, but those do see enough traffic to bump up. Heading North into the trees right off of the Garfield lift is a good one too.

 

If you want a bigger mountain, head over the pass to Crested Butte for a day or so.

post #3 of 19
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by anachronism View Post
 

 

Monarch is one of my favorite places to ski, but you need to make sure it matches your expectations.

 

Wow, lots of great information!  Yes, I could see from the trail map, it is a small mountain.  I've since talked to my brother about considering CB.  I don't know if we're going to go straight to CB and then catch Monarch on the way back, or if we'll go to Monarch first and then make a determination afterwards.  I think we'll wait and see closer to departure time what the weather forecasts hold and then make some last minute decision.  

 

Thanks a lot for the reply - very informative.  

post #4 of 19

Anachronism has given you terrific advice here.

 

The Monarch trees are fun and there are just so many little exploratory stashes with just a bit of a walk or skate. In fact, if you like trees almost any (all?) of the trees between runs are skiable, just pick a spot and dive in.. Any place you see where you can go a bit uphill, do it. You will be rewarded and there are quite a few of those. We could tell you where they are, but that takes some of the fun out of it.

 

The views from Skywalker on the way to upper Curecanti are just divine, so don't forget to look around.

 

The homemade soups in the bar at the base are yummy.

 

Stay in Salida if you go. It's a great town. good beer too!

post #5 of 19

Anacronism, Haven't seen you mention Christmas Tree.  I would put that up there with the Pano runs in steepness, plus it faces north and rarely gets skied so the snow is usually really nice.  Have you ever hit the trees on either side of that run?

post #6 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by Roadrash View Post
 

Anacronism, Haven't seen you mention Christmas Tree.  I would put that up there with the Pano runs in steepness, plus it faces north and rarely gets skied so the snow is usually really nice.  Have you ever hit the trees on either side of that run?

 

That's another one.  When Monarch used to be home, I didn't ski it a whole lot (hit maybe 5-10 times a season) because the short hike never seemed to keep people off of it like I would think.  Instead of the hike, I always just jumped into the trees right off the lift as I said above, but you get more choice in aspect from the top (short hike).

post #7 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kdawg1966 View Post
 

 

Wow, lots of great information!  Yes, I could see from the trail map, it is a small mountain.  I've since talked to my brother about considering CB.  I don't know if we're going to go straight to CB and then catch Monarch on the way back, or if we'll go to Monarch first and then make a determination afterwards.  I think we'll wait and see closer to departure time what the weather forecasts hold and then make some last minute decision.

 

Thanks a lot for the reply - very informative.

 

When you say room booked, do you mean in Salida? If so, You are pretty set on skiing either Monarch or CB, and CB is kind of a drive (1 1/2 hours ish?) Copper is about that far North, and Wolf Creek is about that far South.

 

I was going to suggest some other local-type hills with more vert (Sunlight, Loveland, Wolf Creek, all with some caveats) but being tied to the Southern Front Range narrows things down a bit.

 

And none of this is to say that Monarch is bad. I grew up in Colorado Springs, and chose Monarch over Summit County over and over and over. Great snow, good terrain, great people, no crowds and even less powder devouring crowds. But, it is a short mountain.

post #8 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by anachronism View Post
 

 

Heading North into the trees right off of the Garfield lift is a good one too.

 

 

I thought this was Christmas Tree. (accessible either between the patrol shack and propane tank or side-step up and around the lift shack) Didn't know there was an actual "run" :-o   .

 

Once you pop out of those trees, cross the "road" and enter the trees on the other side (you can milk it by skiing diagonal skier's right) which drop into a little luge in the gully/stream (?) bed which is just a hoot.  Seems like there are always little kids zipping around and giggling and squealing in there. So much fun!

post #9 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mom View Post
 

 

I thought this was Christmas Tree. (accessible either between the patrol shack and propane tank or side-step up and around the lift shack) Didn't know there was an actual "run" :-o   .

 

Once you pop out of those trees, cross the "road" and enter the trees on the other side (you can milk it by skiing diagonal skier's right) which drop into a little luge in the gully/stream (?) bed which is just a hoot.  Seems like there are always little kids zipping around and giggling and squealing in there. So much fun!

 

Nope, there is a named Christmas Tree run.  There used to be both an upper and Lower Christmas Tree. Lower was one of my favorites as a kid, but it no longer exists because they cut the trees down for terrain park space, and now they don't even have a terrain park there. This 1991 map shows the former configuration.

 

 

Nothing really wrong with the Christmas Tree run, except that you spend as much time sidestepping around the lift shack as you do skiing down into Freeway.

 

The gully you mention runs between the base of Turbo and the base of Mirage. You can see the crease shown in the trail map above.  Or just ask any little kid on the mountain where "Pinball" is and they will show you. It is one of the least secret "secret" runs out there and is busier than many of the marked runs on the mountain. It is typically a luge track type run best skied in a Pie or very short radius skis.

 

A less common fun one is "Poma Liftline," which is also shown but not marked on current trailmaps.  Look to the right of Tumbelina Chair.  That cleared, unmarked "run" is the liftline for the long-gone Poma. Its about ten feet wide of an intermediate pitch and typically lots of fun. The trees in that area are yet another stash that almost never sees traffic.

 

post #10 of 19

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post #11 of 19
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by anachronism View Post
 

 

When you say room booked, do you mean in Salida? If so, You are pretty set on skiing either Monarch or CB, and CB is kind of a drive (1 1/2 hours ish?) Copper is about that far North, and Wolf Creek is about that far South.

 

I was going to suggest some other local-type hills with more vert (Sunlight, Loveland, Wolf Creek, all with some caveats) but being tied to the Southern Front Range narrows things down a bit.

 

And none of this is to say that Monarch is bad. I grew up in Colorado Springs, and chose Monarch over Summit County over and over and over. Great snow, good terrain, great people, no crowds and even less powder devouring crowds. But, it is a short mountain.

 

Yes, we're booked at the Hampton Inn, however my brother says it's not etched in stone so, we can change if we want. Being that our departure point (in a car) will be from Colorado Springs, he thought this would be the closest "out-of-the-way" place to go.  If there are other options that wouldn't be a terribly long drive, we would definitely consider them.  I am encouraged by all the positive feedback of Monarch, although I will admit I'm not in love with the prospect of having to hike in my ski boots to get to the "bowl" area - I guess I've gotten lazier with age.  All-in-all, it seems like a nice place to ski.  

 

 

Also, we'll be bringing our boots but we both have your typical midwest ski's (skinny waist, GS or detuned GS ski's) and are planning on renting "high performance" ski's and poles at the resort.  I am assuming that any resort we go to will have plenty of good ski choices to choose from that will fit whatever conditions we face at the time.  Am I reading this correctly or should we look for a place to rent from outside of the resort?  

 

 

Lastly, and not to beat this thread to death, but I'm just noticing that Wolf Creek might be doable as well (google says it's 3.5 hours from Col. Springs).  Would this be a better choice for 3 days of skiing?  Thanks again.  


Edited by Kdawg1966 - 1/13/14 at 4:24pm
post #12 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kdawg1966 View Post
 

 

Yes, we're booked at the Hampton Inn, however my brother says it's not etched in stone so, we can change if we want. Being that our departure point (in a car) will be from Colorado Springs, he thought this would be the closest "out-of-the-way" place to go.  If there are other options that wouldn't be a terribly long drive, we would definitely consider them.  I am encouraged by all the positive feedback of Monarch, although I will admit I'm not in love with the prospect of having to hike in my ski boots to get to the "bowl" area - I guess I've gotten lazier with age.  All-in-all, it seems like a nice place to ski.

 

 

Also, we'll be bringing our boots but we both have your typical midwest ski's (skinny waist, GS or detuned GS ski's) and are planning on renting "high performance" ski's and poles at the resort.  I am assuming that any resort we go to will have plenty of good ski choices to choose from that will fit whatever conditions we face at the time.  Am I reading this correctly or should we look for a place to rent from outside of the resort?

 

 

Lastly, and not to beat this thread to death, but I'm just noticing that Wolf Creek might be doable as well (google says it's 3.5 hours from Col. Springs).  Would this be a better choice for 3 days of skiing?  Thanks again.

 

 

Curecanti, Outback, and Shagnasty are all bowls. They are all pretty short. The Garfield face is 85% bowl- most of it is a wide open face. You don't need to hike to get the bowl experience, but the best terrain at most CO resorts will involve hiking. This is just how things work.

 

Here is the deal with Wolf Creek.

 

1. Lots more snow than the rest of Colorado. A microclimate that produces storms with basically any moisture in the air.

2. Avoiding holidays (Texas' Spring Break rolls around in March, and I would not come near Wolf that week- if you can't figure out when it is, just call up Wolf's Ticket office and ask, they will know) Wolf Creek is even less crowded than Monarch.

3. The combination of low crowds and heavy snow means untracked powder can be found until it manks out due to sun and temp, usually 4-7 days after it falls.  You can almost always hike for untracked here if there is nothing lift served.

4. $58 lift ticket is one of the cheapest in the state.

5. It has more vertical than Monarch, but is still on the short side.

6. It has seriously, seriously steep and technical terrain. Lots of steeps and chutes.

7. Some of the best tree skiing anywhere within the state. The Alberta area is 1000 acres of terrain with only the lift line cut- everything else natural. 2/3rds of Wolf is unmolested trees.

 

Two big downsides-

1. Benchy mountain. Almost all expert lines have anywhere from 300-800 feet of steeps, followed by flat, followed by possibly more steep depending on the line chosen. There is nowhere that you can ski a steady expert pitch the whole way down. You can link up steep stuff (Montezuma Bowl into Waterfall, Knife Ridge into Numbered Chutes, etc.) but there is still green pitches between them.

2. Traverses. In the Alberta area, there are traverses both to and from the lifts to access terrain. You can go far out from the lift to find fresh snow, but going out to Simpatico means that you get only a short descent before you have to grab the cat-track back.  A common mistake for new skiers is they miss the upper cat track and get stuck on the lower one, which means they have a quick but annoying hike out to get back to the lift.

 

My guide has a lot more info on Wolf Creek.  It is an amazing place to ski, but it is a place where you need to do some homework on what you want to ski and what the layout of the mountain is, or you will get stuck in flats and/or hiking.

post #13 of 19
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by anachronism View Post
 

 

 

My guide has a lot more info on Wolf Creek.  It is an amazing place to ski, but it is a place where you need to do some homework on what you want to ski and what the layout of the mountain is, or you will get stuck in flats and/or hiking.

 

You've definitely given me some good points to consider.  I think I'm leaning towards keeping our room near Monarch and then maybe venturing out to Crested Butte for a day.   Thanks a ton!

post #14 of 19

Kdawg, my wife daughter and I are going to be skiing Monarch that weekend.  Give me a shout and we can do a few runs and maybe have a beer afterwards.

post #15 of 19
Thread Starter 

Will do.  When it gets closer to the departure date, I'll send you a PM and we can figure out a time/place to meet.  

post #16 of 19

Never rented skis at Monarch, but my guess is that the mountain itself may have a limited selection. There is likely a good rental store in Salida, but you may want to do some internet searching and make a few calls to make sure you can get the skis you want.

post #17 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mom View Post
 

Never rented skis at Monarch, but my guess is that the mountain itself may have a limited selection. There is likely a good rental store in Salida, but you may want to do some internet searching and make a few calls to make sure you can get the skis you want.

They did spend a ton of money buying new rentals 2-3 years ago, but I also don't know what they have for a selection. There are several rental shops in Salida and Pagosa but I do not have any direct experience with these places.

post #18 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by anachronism View Post
 

They did spend a ton of money buying new rentals 2-3 years ago, but I also don't know what they have for a selection. There are several rental shops in Salida and Pagosa but I do not have any direct experience with these places.

I've never rented there but did check out what they had when I was there last year.  Selection is not that bad and the price is pretty cheap for demo skis.  Probably better than anything in Salida.

post #19 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by anachronism View Post
 

 

 

7. Nobody skis Monarch trees. Few people even ski the advanced runs.  Gunbarrel Trees (in between Tele Alley and Gunbarrel) are some of the best. 

I've managed to get in 9 laps on Gunbarrel Trees in under 2 hours. There are several steep chutes right through the trees with an approach that's open enough to really get up to speed. Definitely one of my favorites. The walk can't be more than 2 minutes. A buddy of mine has managed to muster 9 laps on Mirkwood in a day but that walk is 12-15 min, plus time spent on the run-out. I usually squeeze in 3-4 in the Mirkwood Trees (outstanding tree lined chutes) but there's so much else to ski. Everyone here has pretty much described the rest of my favorites. That said, there really are no bad trees at Monarch. The only times I really get myself in trouble in the trees at Monarch is when I've taken a few laps in a row through some trees, going faster and faster each time. Every once in a while I misjudge where I am and go sailing off some little (to not so little) rock drops.  Especially right near the Garfield lift. Nothing like trying to check some speed and turn to avoid hitting a dead tree and realizing you're several feet in the air.

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