Most Viewed Stories
Monarch Mountain ski area opens for the season
SALIDA • There’s been a gloom over Colorado ski country lately.
The state with the most skier visits was heading into the Christmas season with no snow, and skiers were starting to wonder if a repeat of the incredibly dry 2011-12 ski season was in store.
It’s funny how a little snow can put smiles on peoples’ faces.
After receiving 20 inches of snow in the past week, Monarch Mountain celebrated opening day Friday, more than three weeks later than planned.
“You can take me off suicide watch now,” said Greg Ralph, the ski area’s marketing director.
Major ski areas were able to open limited runs with machine-made snow. But areas such as Monarch that don’t make snow were left high and dry. Employees had no work and businesses that depend on ski visits suffered. The debut of a $2.5-million lodge expansion was put on hold.
“Everyone I think feels the pain,” Colorado Springs skier Ron Leasure said.
It was all a distant memory Friday as hoots and hollers echoed through the snow-draped lodgepole pines.
The ski area was one day from tying its record for latest opening date, Dec. 15, 1989.
“It’s good to see the flakes. It’s good to see the local people up here,” Leasure said.
Added skier Pete Bond: “It’s about time. I’ve been champing at the bit now for a month.”
Rocks and dirt were abundant, but so were deep troughs of powder as Monarch had more than half of the mountain open. And the first flakes of the next storm — optimism in powder form — started to fall Friday afternoon.
“It’s a little thin out there still, but it’ll be better,” Ralph said. “We’ve got some good weather coming. It’s still early ... so we’re really optimistic.”
There’s no indication the drought that plagued Colorado this year is breaking, but having the high country covered in white is a start.
“I’ve been watching the forecast for six months, waiting for the snow and it’s finally here,” Colorado Springs skier Leslie Bergan said. “Contrary to what people think, I think (winter) is going to be for real.”