Monarch Mountain Trip Report

Went to Monarch for the first time yesterday. That place is awful. No one should ever go there.

Location

  • First off, Monarch is far from everything. It’s not even in the middle, but rather on the outskirts of nowhere.
  • The town of Salida (pronounced Sa-LY-da as if the Spanish language isn’t even a thing) is the nearby “city”. No real hotel chains in the entire place. How am I supposed to use my Hilton Rewards points?
  • Monarch itself is super-high in elevation. The base is at 10,790’. Hello, altitude sickness!
  • Since it’s so high, it’s (a) super-cold and (b) super-windy. I heard a couple of locals at the ski rack and the one said “it’s windy this morning” and the other said “it’s always windy at Monarch”. So why do you keep going there?!
  • The highway up to the mountain is steep and there are hardly even any cars on it! Not sure why they built all those passing lanes.

Mountain/Lifts

  • The total vertical is only 1,200 feet. If you care at all about vertical, you’d be better off going to Wisp.
  • All the lifts here are old and slow. If you ever wanted to know how awful skiing in the 70’s must have been, you should come here.
  • There are two lifts that cross each other mid-stream, which as everyone knows is considered bad luck in alpine countries like Austria and Switzerland.
  • No gondolas or anything heated! You just have to sit there shivering all the way up the hill.
  • They only have like five lifts (if you can really call something that only goes up 1,000 vertical feet a “lift”), and most of them are painted black, which is really boring.
  • Since they have so few lifts, they try to make up for it by having way too many runs off of each lift. Clearly, no one there has ever heard of “paradox of choice”. The cognitive load I encountered every time I got off a chair was paralyzing. Not fun.
  • In fact, there were times when I got stuck being on trails all by myself.
  • Monarch brags about how they don’t do any snow-making, which, I mean, how is that a good thing? All the truly great resorts make snow. Not surprisingly, I saw a non-zero number of exposed rocks as well as some twigs sticking out from the snow.
  • What’s with all the trees? I want wide-open runs everywhere that I can traverse all the way across before turning around and slowly traversing back.
  • Monarch brags about having powder, but it wasn’t even knee-deep. Sometimes when I’d make turns the snow would spray *up* to my knees, but I don’t consider that “knee deep”.
  • They say that all the lifts meet at the bottom, but that’s not true. There’s one entire lift that doesn’t reach the bottom at all.
  • There are flat places on the slopes and sometimes you have to point your skis downhill in order to ride through ’em.
  • They barely do any grooming and the runs they *did* groom got covered over with snow during the day, so they may as well have not even bothered.

Amenities

  • There are no specialty or gourmet dining options. I could not find Asian fusion cuisine or a heaping plate of quinoa anywhere.
  • Instead, they have a cafeteria whose menu seems to have been designed by whoever runs the snack shack at the local Little League complex.
  • Seriously, here are your choices of mains: hamburger, hot dog, pizza.
  • Would it have killed them to serve the hot dog on a focaccia bun?
  • There’s really nothing to do at the base: no antique stores, no art galleries, no semi-ironic waffle stands. Nothing to do at this place but ski.
  • They don’t even have time share condos at the base (although I can’t imagine anyone would want one).
  • Even resorts in less highly-regarded skiing states like Pennsylvania know it’s good form to include a bowling alley at the resort.
  • Parking was free, which I guess is good, but there’s no tram system to take you from the parking lot to the base. You have to use your legs like a sucker.

Vibe/People

  • Someone needs to tell the lifties here that if I want someone to tell me to “have fun”, I’ll *ask* them to tell me to have fun.
  • Every time I got off the lift, the attendant would wave. KEEP YOUR HEAD DOWN AND DO YOUR JOB. Seriously.
  • Sometimes, the lift attendants didn’t even scan my ticket. Things could have really gotten out of control.
  • Hard to get a really good read on what the locals are like since I only ended up sharing two chairs all day.
  • Although in the cafeteria, there was a grandpa there with two kids who was so “laid back” that I was the one left to help the six year old put pizza on his plate. Sure, grandpa, it’s for the “glaucoma”; I believe you.
  • When I asked the clerk at the retail store what she thought the skiing would be like on Thursday, she said, “hold on, let me look it up” and then proceeded to get on her computer terminal and look up the weather report. No, no, no! At a first-class resort, the right way for a clerk to respond is “I dunno, you should check the website”.

Basically all you need to know is this: despite it being a “decent snow day” during a holiday-ish period, the parking lot was barely even half full. No one wants to be here and with good reason! And the worst part is that I’m basically stuck here until Saturday.

Doing my part,

bkd

Here’s a photo so you’ll believe this happened:

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