Lifts & Terrain

Lifts & Terrain

Our Terrain Ratings

Powderhound rating = advanced/expert terrain + powder + freshies + uncrowded

Our Terrain Ratings

Powderhound rating = advanced/expert terrain + powder + freshies + uncrowded

  • Vertical (ft)
    10,790 – 11,952 (1,162)
  • Average Snow Fall
    350 inches
  • Lifts (6)
    1 quad
    4 doubles
  • Ski Season
    late Nov - early April
  • Terrain Summary
    Runs – 64
    Terrain – 670 acres
    Beginner - 22%
    Intermediate - 27%
    Advanced - 37%
    Expert - 11%

Ski Monarch

The main section of Monarch Ski Resort is below the tree-line and serviced by 5 chair lifts. This area has lots of trails for beginner, intermediate and advanced riders. Most of the trails cut in from a cat track and are very short. The “Short and Sweet” trail is aptly named and is representative of most runs on the mountain. All the trails feed into the one base area, so you’re highly unlikely to lose your friends, but the downside is that the flat trails near the base can get a little repetitive.

Next to the lift served area is Mirkwood Basin, which requires a short hike to access. The upper reaches of this expert-only area are sub-alpine, but it’s largely below the timberline. Further across again is the Monarch cat skiing terrain.


The lift infrastructure consists of one quad chair and 4 double chairs. Like many of the low frills resorts, the chair lifts are all fixed grip and are mostly slow. However the chair that services a group of black runs is set at a cracking speed so you need some advanced skills to get onto the lift!

The base area has a 450 foot long conveyor lift named the “Caterpillar”, in keeping with the Monarch butterfly theme. It’s covered so as to protect the beginners from the elements. The base area also has two really short magic carpets for the kids’ ski school.


Monarch Ski Resort is renowned for being uncrowded and there are seldom any lift lines. However the Colorado definition of “uncrowded” is somewhat different to my idea of uncrowded. Sure Monarch isn’t teeming like most of the I-70 Colorado ski resorts, but you’ll still have to be quick to get the freshies, particularly in the small lift-serviced area. As to be expected, the hike-to-terrain retains the virgin snow a little longer.

Lift Tickets

Perhaps one reason that Monarch Mountain isn’t completely deserted is the incredibly cheap season’s pass. This season pass is also valid (with some conditions) at numerous low profile ski areas in the USA as well as OS ski resorts. The season pass costs the equivalent of about 5.5 single day lift tickets.

Single day lift passes are also very inexpensive, although it could be argued that you don’t get the same value for money relative to the “big” Colorado ski resorts considering the limited terrain and lift infrastructure on offer.

Monarch Mountain Snow

Monarch receives 350 inches (8.9 metres) of Colorado powder on average per season, which is a little higher than the mean for Colorado ski resorts. Monarch ski resort boasts that their snow is 100% natural, but this may not be worth bragging about because snow cover can be rather inconsistent during lean years or early in the season.

The top elevation of Monarch is reasonably high, and one of the benefits of the very short vertical is that the snow quality doesn’t deteriorate much as you move down to the base area.

For the Beginner

The kids’ ski school area is serviced by magic carpets and on a very gentle slope. Otherwise novices can use the Caterpillar magic carpet, although the slope is a little steep for first timers. Rookies may be better placed on the Tumbelina lift which has a couple of nice short green runs. From there beginners can progress onto the Garfield or Panorama chairs to access cat tracks that meander around the resort and then feed into a few green trails. Be aware that the Skywalker trail is so mellow in places that skating may be required.

Monarch ski resort doesn’t have an array of green trails, but on the plus side the small size of the resort makes it rather unintimidating. Beginners need not fear that they’ll get lost or stray too far away from the base lodge!

Monarch Skiing for the Intermediate

Intermediates have about 14 trails to choose from, but many of these are short little piste that drop off cat tracks. Monarch only has a few fall line runs, and they’re unlikely to get the thighs burning.

Monarch Terrain Parks

Monarch Mountain has a terrain park that runs the full vertical (hee hee) of the ski resort where you’ll find rails, boxes and some jumps. Monarch is a great place to learn because the pros don’t hang out there so the only thing you’ll find intimidating is the hits themselves!

Monarch also has another terrain park (Tilt) that’s a complete waste of time because it’s set on a diagonal so you can only do one hit at a time.

Advanced Skiing Monarch

Monarch ski resort has lots of black trails that are often covered in moguls, but they’re over in a nano-second before you’re back on a flattish trail that returns to the base area.

Advanced riders are likely to have much more fun in the trees. The spacing between them varies, so you can find something that suits your desire for a challenge. Monarch is a good place to learn tree skiing because in the main area you’re never far from a trail where you can bail out.

An exception is the trees to the left of the terrain park where you can find some great fall line skiing and snowboarding.

Ski Monarch - Expert Terrain

A 10-15 minute hike up from the top of the Breezeway lift (about 300 vertical foot climb) will take you to the Mirkwood Bowl area where there are a myriad of exciting lines to be taken amongst 130 skiable acres. Much of this area is categorised as extreme due to the presence of cliffs and steep pitches. Some of the tree skiing is delightfully challenging. The spacing between the trees is doable but you probably won’t be able to take them at Mach 2!

Like most steep rocky slopes, this area requires a significant base before it can open.

If you want someone to hold your hand in this terrain, the resort runs inexpensive guided tours on Saturdays.