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Ski Powder for Days in Mirkwood Basin at Monarch Mountain

Monarch Mountain's hike-to terrain boasts challenging lines and holds soft powder for days after a storm!

Freeride Skiing Moderate, Difficult, Severe

Photo: Greg Heil


Monarch Mountain hides from the hordes of skiers that swarm the I-70 corridor every weekend. Resting at the very top of the Continental Divide many miles to the south of the I-70 madness, this small hometown resort resists the pressures of modern-day ski trends. The resort is still family-owned. You won't find any condos, or even a hotel, at the base area to stay at. All of the chairs are slow fixed-grip lifts. And the snow is 100% natural.

That's right: Monarch Mountain is the only ski area in the state of Colorado that doesn't even own snowmaking equipment! That in and of itself is a bold statement of how fantastic the snow quality is here.

Add to that incredible natural snowfall some steep, technical faces and beautiful scenery, and it's no wonder that Monarch Mountain makes every blogger's list of "undiscovered gems" and "the next ski resort that you need to check out in Colorado."

The high point of Monarch Mountain at the top of Mirkwood Basin soars to 11,952 feet above sea level, and it can only be reached via a 10-20 minute hike from the top of the Breezeway lift. Every line inside of Mirkwood Basin has been given a double black diamond "extreme terrain" rating. While the bowl is avy controlled and patrolled, signs still warn skiers and riders that it's best to ski with a partner and bring an avalanche beacon, shovel, and probe regardless.

While giving a few of the lines—such as Mirkwood Bowl, the title track for this album—an "extreme" rating may seem excessive, other lines in the basin require full commitment, with some no-fall zones sprinkled above massive cliff bands. Staircase, in particular, is a technical treed face with cliff bands, chutes, and tight trees maxing out at a 40° slope. East Trees boasts the steepest slope, even if it’s short, at 44°. And finally, Elation Ridge Cliffs offers the best sender cliffs on the mountain, with great in runs, drops of 30 or more feet, and wide-open landing zones.

And there's so much more to be skied! While Mirkwood may look small on a map, the more you ski it, the more fantastic lines you'll discover!

Routes included

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