Monarch, CO: 04/03/21

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Monarch, CO: 04/03/21

Postby jamesdeluxe » Sun Apr 04, 2021 5:21 am

For my final ski weekend of the season, I headed back to Colorado to get a few more days on my Loveland season pass. After a couple hours on Route 285 through expansive unpopulated valleys, you turn right onto Route 50 and head up toward Monarch Pass:
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Even though all of the snow in the Front Range has melted, including the storm in mid-March that dropped up to two feet on Denver, up here there's still 100% coverage.
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The people in the SUV next to me had this cute pitbull, Ollie, who quickly made friends with the parking attendant:
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Similar to Loveland, Monarch has had a subpar winter and is 50 inches below its annual average. Tony assured me that their brochure quote of 350 inches is exaggerated.
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Monarch is located right on the Continental Divide, so it's basically east-facing:
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With a majority of intermediate terrain (and a few steep sections mixed in), trees that go to the summit, and no rain ever at this high elevation, I've always encountered nice conditions here. Temps in the low 40s and blue skies were just right for excellent spring skiing:
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Even on a busy Saturday, there was plenty of elbow room. Impressive how Monarch spreads people out across its relatively small footprint of less than 700 lift-served acres:
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Little Mo is a beautiful rolling trail that I did eight times in a row to start the day. By 9 am, the sun had softened it up perfectly:
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Looking down on the Turbo trail:
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I've done this hike a few times before and it was absolutely worth it but during this time of year, if the snow hasn't been groomed or compacted by skiers, it's tough going so I took a pass --
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-- and headed over to Outback Bowl, straight ahead, which is always fun:
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I skied basically nonstop from 8:45 to 2:15, at which time my legs were getting tired and the flats heading into the lifts were getting a bit grabby, so I headed back into Salida to check out the cute town with lots of brick buildings. Monarch ski area has its own store, on the left:
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Snow-capped mountains are visible in almost every direction, including from the town park:
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The Great Divide restaurant, where I had drinks and an early dinner on their outdoor stage:
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The Arkansas River is a big attraction around here for all sorts of recreational pursuits, including right in town, where people were swimming, rafting, fishing, boogie-boarding, biking, walking, playing fetch with their dogs, etc. I went in to my knees and the water wasn't as cold as I'd expected given the snow runoff that was feeding it.
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Re: Monarch, CO: 04/03/21

Postby Tony Crocker » Sun Apr 04, 2021 3:23 pm

Spring conditions despite the altitude? How warm was it up there? Considering your bathing suit pictures in 7,000 foot Salida, perhaps warmer than I might expect for early April.
Joel, OpenSnow Colorado wrote:Saturday was absolutely gorgeous with sunny skies and very warm temperatures that rose to near 50 degrees at many mountains with some 60s near base areas.
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Re: Monarch, CO: 04/03/21

Postby Sbooker » Sun Apr 04, 2021 10:49 pm

That Loveland pass looks very tempting.
If we're lucky enough to be able to travel in December/January for the kids school holidays this pass is a consideration but I'm only seeing Targhee as a sure fire bet for early season. Would this pass be better suited to a end of March/early April trip?
If travelling early season Mountain Collective is a better bet with Targhee/Jackson/Alta/Snowbird?
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Re: Monarch, CO: 04/03/21

Postby jamesdeluxe » Mon Apr 05, 2021 6:20 am

Tony Crocker wrote:Spring conditions despite the altitude? How warm was it up there?

100% spring conditions. The actual temps were allegedly only in the mid-40s but the sun was blazing.
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Re: Monarch, CO: 04/03/21

Postby snowave » Mon Apr 05, 2021 10:45 am

yep, the sun starts to overpower the air temps at some of those areas, even at 10,000+ ft One of the reasons Wolf Creek closes in early April is it becomes a slushfesh, and with its low angle terrain, difficult to ride and not much fun. As Tony knows, Monarch is over half east facing.

Nice report, James. I always had intentions of going to Monarch when I lived in Pagosa, but never made it there. Salida, is indeed a fun town and perfect for those that like being near the big peaks, but in a mild valley. We briefly has Salida on our short list a few years ago, but decided it wasn't quite right for us.
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Re: Monarch, CO: 04/03/21

Postby Tony Crocker » Mon Apr 05, 2021 11:04 am

snowave wrote:One of the reasons Wolf Creek closes in early April is it becomes a slushfesh, and with its low angle terrain, difficult to ride and not much fun.

Yes, steep pitch is a key part of the top of Mammoth and much of A-Basin retaining winter snow, and perhaps Breck's high alpine as well. The other factor is wind, which tends to sublimate surface snow rather than melt it. This is even more important at Loveland, which does not have much in the way of steeps yet was majority winter snow during both of my April days there.
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Re: Monarch, CO: 04/03/21

Postby Tony Crocker » Mon Apr 05, 2021 11:48 am

Sbooker wrote:That Loveland pass looks very tempting.
If we're lucky enough to be able to travel in December/January for the kids school holidays this pass is a consideration but I'm only seeing Targhee as a sure fire bet for early season. Would this pass be better suited to a end of March/early April trip?
If travelling early season Mountain Collective is a better bet with Targhee/Jackson/Alta/Snowbird?

While Loveland itself is extremely skewed to late season, the interior Northwest places on its pass, notably the key ones Schweitzer and Whitefish, have decent early season track records but are a slushfest most springs with low altitude and sunny exposures. That goes for Powder Mt. too, though PowMow has suffered greatly during Utah's three slow starting seasons over the past decade.

The bottom line is that early or late season but especially early season calls for last minute flexibility. MCP has greater geographic breadth in that regard. Either trip is best done similar to the way we do the Alps. Book flights to SLC (central location plus high probability local options) and rent a car, but wait until close to departure to choose resorts.
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Season length: 21 months, Nov. 29, 2010 - July 2, 2012
Days in one year: 80 from Nov. 29, 2010 - Nov. 17, 2011
Season vertical: 1,610K in 2016-17
Season powder: 291K in 2011-12
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Re: Monarch, CO: 04/03/21

Postby EMSC » Tue Apr 06, 2021 1:28 pm

Salida is a surprisingly good spot in Colo considering it's not too well known to most. Though it is well known enough that housing prices are still out of reach of most folks, though a fair bit less than most resort towns at the same time.
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Re: Monarch, CO: 04/03/21

Postby jamesdeluxe » Fri Apr 09, 2021 6:34 am

EMSC wrote:Salida is a surprisingly good spot in Colo considering it's not too well known to most. Though it is well known enough that housing prices are still out of reach of most folks, though a fair bit less than most resort towns at the same time.

I cruised through a good part of the town checking out the housing stock. I saw a number of attractive "Victorian" homes like this --
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-- but lots of sh*tboxes on yards with no trees or landscaping. Look at this one for $450K! LOL, taxes only $1,290 a year. How do you keep schools going with that kind of tax rate?
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