|Some views at the ski area. To the left is the upper mountain and to the right is
the Breezeway area.
Monarch Ski and Snowboard area is one of Colorado’s true local
mountains. The area is located just west of Salida off of US Highway 50.
Monarch Pass typically receives over three hundred and fifty inches of
snow per year. While Monarch does not draw as many skiers from the
Denver Metro Area due to its location, it is somewhat convenient for the
residents of Colorado Springs.
Monarch’s first winter season was way back in 1936 when James Kane
and the Salida Winter Sports Club (SWSC) brought a Chevy truck engine
up Monarch Pass highway to over 11,000 feet. Other skiers instrumental
with the initial opening of the area was Thor Groswold, Sven Wiik, and
Charlie Vail. By 1939, the SWSC applied to the U.S. Forest Service for
a permit to cut trails, construct a lodge and erect a lift. The Forest Service
decided to issue a permit to the town of Salida and the SWSC was
chosen to carryout construction and operations. The Works Progress
Administration (WPA) issued the initial construction grant during the great
depression for over twenty six thousand dollars.
The first run cut up at Monarch was Gunbarrel, an expert trail with a thirty
percent slope. For the winter of 1939, a rope tow was in operation. It
climbed one hundred and fifty feet with a length of three hundred feet. To
access the expert Gunbarrel run, skiers were forced to hike. By late
1939, the winter sports club finished construction of a new lodge called
“The Inn Inferno.” The name was in honor of Salida’s current mayor.
Unfortunately, there were no inside bathrooms or outhouses so guests
were forced to enjoy the great outdoors for their business.
During the first ski season of 1939-1940, season pass prices only cost
one dollar and sixty-four were sold. Rope tow revenues netted at over
fifty dollars, with twenty-five cent day tickets.
The town of Salida officially owned Monarch during the early days and it
was leased to the SWSC for a ten percent cut of profits. By 1951, Ray
and Josephine Berry of Salida purchased the resort for a mere one
hundred dollars. Monarch’s next lift was a T-bar added in 1961 and was
open as a full time ski area. This lift came from the then defunct
Tenderfoot Ski Area outside of Cripple Creek (see the lost resort section
for the history of Tenderfoot).
By the 1960-61 ski season, Monarch had installed its first chairlift. The
lift was installed by Texan, Gus Irwin, and was made from used parts of
oil derricks. Components of the chair also included parts from the Hall
Ski Lift Company of New York. The hybrid double chair ran the current
Garfield line. Also, during the early 1960’s a new base lodge was
constructed to offer skiers warm food and a place to escape the cold
Ownership changed in 1967 when Elmo Bevington, a former Gunnison
resident, bought the controlling share of the area at sixty seven percent.
The Berry family was retained to run the operations up at Monarch.
Major changes took place at Monarch, with Bevington’s involvement with
the development of “Ski Town” or now known as “The Moarch Lodge.”
This offered skiers a place to reside nearby when skiing at Monarch.
Chairlifts were also upgraded with the replacement of the T-bar with a
modern poma lift. Engineers at the Hall Ski Lift Company also
constructed the Breezeway lift that same year, which drastically increased
the skiable acres of the resort.
During 1979 the resort’s ownership changed hands again, this time to
Gerald Rogers who owned the Westlake Mortgage and Investment
Corporation, Inc. The next season, the lodge underwent a large addition,
doubling it size. A third double chair was also added to the summit of the
mountain, practically doubling the size of the ski area.
The decade of the 1980’s brought about instability at Monarch. For the
1981-82 season, the poma was replaced by another Hall double chair,
improving the beginner terrain. In July of 1985, Monarch Ski Area filed
for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. As a result, the area’s stock was sold in
April of 1988 to a Seattle-based “7th Elect Church of Israel” and to the
State of California at an auction in the Chaffee County Courthouse. The
Church and State bid the highest prices of 2.1 and 2.3 million dollars
Going back to the 1970’s, many of Monarch’s problems stemmed from
the owner Gerald Rogers. In 1975, Rogers was convicted of
embezzlement of funds from the 7th Elect Church of Israel plus over 100
million dollars in tax fraud. Much of the money spend from these ventures
was on the Monarch Ski Area. The Church and California were then
awarded control of this ski area, which was now valued at over eight
The situation became more complicated in 1988, when the Internal
Revenue Service (IRS) entered the picture with a 5.5 million dollar lien on
the property. This delayed the sale of the property to the Church and
California. By September of 1990, Rogers was finally arrested and
convicted of fourteen counts of mail and securities fraud.
By the 1990’s, stability returned to the broken Monarch Ski Area. Their
powder snowcat operation began operations during the 1990 season.
Unfortunately, additional plans to expand their permit area in the San
Isabel National Forest were hindered by expensive environmental analysis
costs. A worker also brought a sexual discrimination lawsuit against the
management in the early 1990’s. All of these events strained Monarch’s
ability to go ahead with expansion and lift replacement plans.
During the summer of 1999, a CTEC Garaventa quad chair was installed
at the area, the first in well over a decade. This added additional capacity
to the terrain the Garfield chair serves.
In 2002, Monarch changed ownership again, this time for 5.5 million
dollars. The area was sold to a group of investors under the name of
Powder Monarch LLC from Colorado, Utah, California, and overseas. In
2006, the Mirkwood Basin, to the right of the Breezeway lift on the front
side will open to skiers and riders willing to hike. The area will offer 130
skiable acres with a 650-foot vertical drop.
|The summit of Breezeway in the distance
|Pros and Cons to Skiing Here:
|+ Reliable Snow
||- Slow Chairlifts
|+ Reasonable Food and Ticket
|- Facilities slightly outdated
|+ Relatively uncrowded and great
|- Many beginner skiers crowd the
lodge on weekends.
|+ Powder Cat Skiing
|+ Lodging Nearby
|Insider Tips to Skiing Here:
|Copyright © coloradoskihistory.com
All Rights Reserved.
*Resort Stats Current for 2009-10
The Colorado Ski Museum
|Monarch also offers powdercat skiing.