There are a lot of factors to consider when planning your child’s first ski endeavor. But the most important is selecting a destination that sets your young skier up for success on the slopes. Monarch Mountain, a secluded Colorado ski area located along the Continental Divide, offers the perfect setting for an introduction to skiing. With easy, stress-free entry from the parking lot, an efficient check-in system, no lift lines, uncrowded trails, and friendly staff, you are in good hands when you visit Monarch Mountain!
This winter, I drove my five kids, ages three to 16, from Texas to Colorado so they could give skiing a try for the first time. I was pretty sure it was a bad idea since I wasn’t the best skier myself and my kids always seem to injure themselves while walking. But I rented winter gear from Mountain Threads and off we went anyway.
I figured at the very least, we’d get to see snow in the Rocky Mountains, and that would be excitement enough to carry us through the holidays. Logic be darned, we were on our way to Monarch Mountain!
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10 Reasons Monarch Mountain is Perfect for First-Time Skiers
Low Crowds Even in High Season
In operation since 1939, Monarch Mountain has long been a favorite of locals, but somehow its stellar reputation has never traveled far beyond the Colorado border. As a result, it remains an unspoiled and uncrowded ski area. With 53 lift-served trails, through 800 skiable acres under permit from the US Forest Service, there is plenty of room for skiers to spread out and descend the mountain at their own pace.
All Natural Snow
Courtesy of its location along the Continental Divide, Monarch Mountain gets more than 350 inches of snow each year, making it one of only three mountains in the state to operate on 100% all-natural snow. This year, Monarch has already gotten 250 of those inches! Fresh, fluffy snow is a lot easier to ski on than the manmade variety, and more fun, too.
Easy Start to the Day
The 20-mile scenic route to Monarch Mountain from the nearby town of Salida, Colorado leads through a gorgeous stretch of the majestic Rocky Mountains. Blue skies and snow-topped peaks around every corner, and then, seemingly right in the middle of nowhere, a sign for the Monarch Mountain parking lot. Friendly attendants guide you to park and you find yourself mere steps from the bottom of the mountain. There is no shuttle. There are no massive lines. You walk in, sign your waiver, rent equipment, hop right on one of the lifts, and off you go.
If you’re returning for a second day, it’s even easier. Skip the check-in procedure altogether, and grab your skis from where you stored them outside the day before.
Fun Ski School
My older children went to ski school on our first day at Monarch Mountain and learned very quickly in their small classes. After just one day of lessons, all four kids felt confident in their newfound skiing abilities and were raring to go hit the trails. There were a few tumbles, but they had learned the skills they needed to get themselves up and back on track with little to no assistance.
While her older siblings were in class, my toddler enjoyed crafts and lunch in The Children’s Center. She also went out for a private lesson with a ski instructor, which she loved.
When we arrived for our second day of skiing, my teenage son’s ski school instructor ran over to greet him. My son’s smile was huge; he was so delighted to be personally welcomed back to the mountain. We felt that across the board, every staff member we encountered at Monarch was extremely friendly and helpful.
Family-Friendliness of Monarch Mountain
Skiing with a bunch of beginners in tow, it was a great relief to discover that Monarch Mountain has lifts that only service green and blue trails, for the safety of young skiers. We stayed on the beginner slopes and had a grand time.
Several Onsite Restaurants
While there is a sack lunch area for patrons to use, we enjoyed grabbing lunch at Monarch Mountain’s restaurants in the lodge. Some of our favorite vacation treats were the nachos at Sidewinder Saloon, pizza and delicious cheese fries from the Gunbarrel Cafeteria, and hot chocolate from the Java Stop.
Ski Slopes for All Abilities
There are so many trails at Monarch Mountain, that many of them were empty, despite the fact that we were there the week of Christmas. From the escalator-like caterpillar ski lift for first-timers, right on up to Freestyle Terrain for experienced skiers, Monarch has something for everyone.
We All Learned How to Ski!
Monarch Mountain exceeded all of my expectations. I never imagined that my children would be able to join me on the slopes after just one day of ski school. That, and the fact that we came home with no injuries, made our first family ski adventure feel like a Christmas miracle. We can’t wait to go back next year and try it again!