(Last Updated On: January 26, 2016)
I’ve been in Crested Butte for more or less twenty years. In that time, I’ve skied “who knows” how many days in the surrounding backcountry, and it’s hard for me to find many peaks or faces that I haven’t skied at one time or another. But that pass that I’ve driven over countless times on my way to and from Denver? Nope, I haven’t backcountry skied Monarch Pass, not even once (unless you count Mount Aetna, which I don’t think I would).
Brittany’s parents were in town, and to mix it up, they did a day at Monarch ski area. We actually dropped them off before heading back to the highway to ski backcountry. Brittany’s dad pointed out that things had clearly come full circle, since he used to drop Brittany off to ski Boston Mills, outside Cleveland Ohio. Strange how that can work, isn’t it?
With all the recent wind, we were looking for trees to ski, and Monarch certainly has plenty of that to find. Here’s Brittany, with Highway 50 and the ski are behind:
Despite the wind, it was fairly pleasant with some of the warmest temperatures of the past month. We continued near treeline, searching for other areas to perhaps explore down the road.
While the snow near treeline was a bit wind affected, the snow in the trees had settled and made for fast and forgiving skiing. It was close to perfect. Frank:
As close as Monarch and Crested Butte are, they don’t always get the same snow. Monarch can get upslopes that head up the Arkansas valley, while the Crested Butte backcountry can suck moisture out from several directions. In the week prior to this, the Kebler Pass area had racked up around six feet of snow, while Monarch was closer to a third of that. But sometimes it goes the other way. Brittany:
A few more of me:
One thing about Monarch Pass is that it isn’t very conducive to doing highway laps. It’s rare to see hitchhikers on the pass the way you do at Berthoud or Loveland passes. In fact, after our last lap we actually needed to skin back to the car.
Overall, I’d have to say that we were pleasantly surprised by the skiing on Monarch, and we’d certainly go back- either for further exploration or to catch a storm that was favoring the Monarch area.