What to do in Salida, CO: Monarch Mountain
Aspen, Vail and Breckinridge may be what comes to mind when you think winter activities in Colorado, but Salida & Monarch Mountain are growing more well-known as a fun-filled winter wonderland. Monarch still has the laid-back local ski town vibes that many of the above resorts haven’t seen since the 70s. Not to mention short lift lines, plenty of pow, and fewer crowds.
Ski at Monarch Mountain – Before moving to Salida I didn't think I enjoyed skiing and snowboarding much. I grew up in Park City, UT so this comes as quite a shock to everyone, particularly since I am proficient at skiing and snowboarding. Well, that all changed when I moved to Salida. The truth is I love snowboarding, I just hate dealing with expensive lift tickets, snotty people and long lift lines where I freeze my tail off. None of that is the case at Monarch. The resort is owned by real-life human beings and it shows. Lift tickets are usually $99, a steal compared to a Vail property. There are discounts if you are a senior or have a season pass to another resort.
Lift lines are almost shockingly short. I went on one of the busiest ski days of the year (NYE) and was completely floored by how little time I spent in line. The staff is incredibly friendly, even by already high liftie standards.
There is a nice variety of terrain and the views at the high altitude are truly breathtaking. I will warn my fellow boarders to look closely at the map as there are quite a few cat-tracks, but I found it was easy to get around them or over them most of the time. The only other (maybe?) negative is that Monarch does not make their snow so it is weather dependent how much snowpack you have. That being said I was impressed with the maintenance there and don't consider it a big drawback (much more eco-friendly which is rad!).
Snowmobile trip with Monarch Snowmobiles – This is another favorite thing to do in Salida for many of our guests and is perfect for any thrill-seeker! Monarch offers several different options for length of trip, and all trips take you into unexplored areas near Monarch Pass. The company has exclusive rights to the mountain so the trips feel private and natural. If you’ve never been on a snowmobile before, do not worry! The guides are careful to teach you how to operate your machine and take you to an open meadow to practice before taking on more challenging terrain. The guides put a great deal of effort into trying to accommodate all skill levels: there are opportunities to try more challenging trails, or stay on the easier trails. Trips often take you to beautiful overlooks and abandoned mines so it’s an interesting trip even if motorsports aren’t your passion.
Tips for your first snowmobile experience:
Warm gloves are an absolute essential for snowmobiling, try to layer with glove liners or bring warming packets. Your hands will be on the handles of the machines so they take the brunt of wind and chill as you cruise through the mountains. You will be given a helmet and goggles which help to keep your head warm. Ski jackets, pants, warm socks and snow boots will keep you the comfiest, so bring those along if you have them. Monarch rents some equipment, but be sure to call and let them know what you might need to borrow. Call (719) 539-2572 for trip information and pricing. Oh and did I mention - guest staying at our property receive 10% off all tours!
Snowshoeing Old Monarch Pass:
Another favorite activity of our guests is to snowshoe Old Monarch Pass. The trail is moderately difficult and follows the ski slopes in the beginning then veers into more natural terrain. I can’t personally speak to this experience, but I can vouch for the very happy faces that come home from the trail!
A note about activities at Monarch Mountain:
As mentioned above, the temperatures at Monarch Mountain are usually at least ten degrees cooler than in Salida’s Downtown. As always in Colorado, we highly recommend bringing layers with you to any activity on the mountain as weather can change quickly at higher altitudes. Often the mountain also has more wind and snow than we do in the valley of Salida. You can check weather reports for Maysville which will be closer to accurate but still may be warmer than Monarch itself. Don’t forget to bring a water bottle and hydrate before you go. Many of the activities on the mountain are thousands of feet higher in altitude than in Salida. Your body needs more hydration the higher it goes, especially if you are coming from low elevation or sea level. The sun is another thing to plan for – you may be freezing but you are actually closer to the sun at higher elevation, making you even more prone to sunburn than usual. Put high SPF sunscreen on your face or any other skin that may be exposed.