Home > Trip Reports > March 4-6, 2003, Monarch, Colorado

March 4-6, 2003, Monarch, Colorado

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Posted by J.P. on 3/5/03 10:31pm
Finally, a well timed trip to the high country to visit long lost friends and ski the snow Monarch is famous for. Like the NW, Colorado got started a little slow but is quickly making up for it in fine fashion. Monarch is located in Central Colorado on Hwy 50, just west of Salida with a base of about 10,500'.

After a warm-up day on Monday hunting for remnants of Saturday's 14 inch dump and trying to convince the lungs that there is oxygen up here at 10,000' I boarded a snow-cat operated by Monarch Snow Cat Tours and headed in search of the goods. A total of 6 of us including 3 guides bounced and climbed into the near whiteout conditions with snow and winds of 40 - 60 plus to the drop off at 12,000'. Unfotunately the high winds had helped to form one heck of a wind-slab which made the skiing interesting. The terrain available here is great with everything from 50 degree chutes to rolling low grade glades.

Got to examine a class V slide from the day before which served as a good reminder of how much force is involved in an avalanche. Definitely a place for good guides with years of local experience in these conditions. Once in the trees we enjoyed the best that 12,000 ' and many feet of recent new snow can offer. More than enough skiing to wear out this flatlander!

Once back in-bounds I joined my good friend from Salida for a ski-tour up to The Lost Wonder Hut. We enjoyed a nice 3 mile tour to the hut which is available for private rental year-round and certainly ranks as one of the finest I have ever seen -- plenty of room, solar lights, gas stove and oven, a year-round spring, a tuned guitar hanging on the wall, and beds for at least 10. We did cross the Mt. Aetna slide path (run-out zone) on the way up but did so one at a time and hustled our way across without delay. Another 20 inches of fresh stuff fell over-night ;D and we enjoyed a few laps in the low angle burn area across the valley from the hut. Almost too much snow for the terrain but everything else was sliding naturally. The ski out went much faster than the climb in and we were back to the highway before dark

Decided to hit the Monarch Ski Area again today. 24 inches in the past 24 hrs and less than 200 people skiing here has meant endless fresh tracks in partial sun. If you ever get a chance to get down this direction be sure to consider a few days enjoying this jewel of a playground far from the crowds of the front range. Info on the snowcat tours and the hut are availabe on-line if you care to search them out. If only I could take another week of vacation! :) - JP

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2003-03-06 06:31:26