By Meghan McCloskey, Taking the Kids Correspondent
Don’t worry about buying new ski gear. Just pull your old ski gear out of the box in your garage; you’ll feel right at home at laid-back Monarch Mountain. People are here to ski, not to impress. Monarch is unpretentious and welcoming of all skiers, novice or advanced, in fancy ski gear or in jeans.
Monarch’s base is nestled at 10,790 feet in the Rockies – higher than any ski base in Colorado. Opened back in 1936, Monarch continues to keep the undeveloped charm of an old-fashioned ski resort alive.
Families love the simplicity of Monarch. There is only one base where all runs end, so kids don’t get lost and parents can give them more freedom to explore on their own.
Brett, 10, from Washington, DC said, “I skied mostly greens and blues and even one black diamond at Monarch!”
The lift tickets are a great deal and perfect for larger families or families on a budget. The adult tickets are actually half the price that I’ve seen at other places. A one-day pass for kids aged 7-12 is only $25. Any group of ten or more can get discounted tickets.
Beginners are catered to at Monarch. A 450-foot covered magic carpet escorts novices to the top of the bunny hill, out of the elements. Beyond the basic lessons, groups of friends or families can take a lesson together. Mini and Me lessons allow parents to participate in their child’s lesson and learn coaching tips and safety information.
It’s not only beginners here. There is plenty of intermediate and extreme terrain. There are even Cat Tours to take guests to some of the best spots and thickest powder on the mountain that can’t be reached by a lift (The powder here is intense with an average of 350 inches of snowfall). The Cat Tours take daring skiers on 10 to 12 runs with 900 vertical feet per run.
Nature lovers will enjoy the opportunity to ski with a naturalist and learn about Monarch’s history, forest and wildlife ecology and more. The tour is for skiers of all ages and levels and departs at 11:00 am every Friday throughout the season.
There are no resorts at the base, but the eclectic town of Salida is only 20 miles from Monarch Mountain. We stayed at the Hampton Inn and Suites, which has the benefit of a complimentary breakfast to start the ski day off with plenty of calories. The Hampton Inn and Suites even offers a lift ticket deal with Monarch Mountain.
The town of Salida is a great place to grab dinner après ski, or spend the day browsing the unique shops. We had cocktails and small plates at The Fritz, and I was extremely impressed by my ahi tuna salad.
Charlie, 10, from Farwell, Texas said, “I loved the meatball pizza at Moonlight Pizza in downtown Salida.”
Springtime is a great time to check out Monarch. Kids are invited to come to Kid Fest on Saturday, April 5, with interactive snow sculptures, face painting and more. Watch the Kayaks in the Snow event on April 12, where contestants will race down a bumpy course on a kayak into an icy pond. I’ll stick to my skis!