Founded in 1939, Monarch Mountain is one of Colorado's oldest operating ski areas, and not much has changed over the years. There is no lodging, most of the lifts are fixed double chairs, and the ski rental shop is housed in a giant white dome that looks like an indoor golfing range. But the base area rests at a whopping 10,790 feet, and sits in southern end of the Sawatch mountains, meaning the resort sees an annual snowfall of 350 inches of powder. And it's au natural — meaning, no artificial snowmaking. It's 800 acres has numerous family friendly runs on the lower mountain and, for the more advanced skier, the Mirkwood Bowl offers 130-acres of expert, hike-to terrain. Plus, for backcountry aficionados, there's over 1,000 acres of double black diamond cat-skiing available, too. Tickets are just $64.00 online.
Where to Stay: The Palace Hotel in nearby Salida (a 20-minute drive away) is located next to the Arkansas River in the heart of downtown. They offer two lift tickets, two massages, and room for $325.00 per night.
Insiders Tip: On the from the resort to Salida, make sure to take the 20-minute detour to Mt. Princeton Hot Springs, near Buena Vista. The resort has a series of pools, plus natural hot springs burbling up from the cold river that runs through it — which offers the rare opportunity to ease into an almost too-hot-to-handle spring, then slide over a few feet for a cold rush of river water cascading over your back. There's nothing better after a long day on the mountain.
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