Photos by Tom Boyd
Monarch Mountain, Mirkwood, and powder poaching
February 3, 2009 —
Of all the many different forms of the face plant, my favorite is the windowshade wipeout.
This is the one where the skis come to a dead stop and the body propels forward and downhill, pushing the mouth and face forward, into the snow and, if you’re a telemarkers and the timing’s just right, onto and over the tip of the ski.
The face leaves a perfect imprint in the snow while the arse – not normally known for its flying abilities – traces an aerial maneuver at about mach 3 bass-ackwards over topwise, thereby yanking the ski tips out of the mouth, preferably with no teeth attached, then up through the air and miraculously back under the feet of the skier.
All this happens so quickly that the body is quite often still in skiing position upon landing, so that if no one is watching you can keep about your business and make a few turns before wiping the snow out of your goggles.
I must report that my most recent windowshade was, sadly, a direct result of my lack of experience skiing three-day-old powder.
I’ve heard tell of such remarkable snow (Untouched!? For three days?!) whenever dad gets to telling about the early days of the Back Bowls in Vail, when he was a ski patrolman here. All these stories start with something happening in ’68 or 70-something, and old Chuck Malloy and the Sandman and Jake the Snake did this or that and at the end everyone ended up at the Copper Bar.
The point is, though, that apparently powder used to stick around for days, even weeks at a time – but those days are long gone, as much a part of history as the old two-seater chairlifts.
But wait a minute – it’s not all history just yet: one has to remember Monarch Mountain – location of this past weekend’s road trip and a place where powdery pitches of 40, 45, even 50 degrees sit loaded with snow for days at a time.
Most of this snow is atop Mirkwood, a short hike from the top of the two-seater Breeze Way lift, but hike-to terrain is a surefire way to protect powder and, besides, hiking to skiing is good for the inner Buddha, the shakra, the soul, and of course the body, too.
The steeps of the Mirkwood area are fairly short … think of Prospect Bowl in Telluride, Steep and Deep in Blue Sky Basin, or Temerity in Aspen Highlands – but the ski out is a piece of pie and multiple laps a day are quick and easy.
And here’s the part about Monarch that I love most of all (beyond the affordability, beyond the ultra-nice people, beyond the chill-factor, beyond the uncrowded slopes, varied terrain, and stellar bar and sun deck) at Monarch you can split up from your group, hit whatever slopes you choose, and easily find your group again at the bottom of the hill because every run leads to the same place.
Yet somehow it’s a pretty big resort.
Of all the things that make Monarch low stress, that’s the thing that tops it all. There’s no worries about getting lost, losing your group, organizing people of various skill levels – everyone can pick and choose their route and meet at the bottom over a burger or beer when the time comes.
Now, could it keep me entertained all winter long? Not sure … depends on the backcountry around the resort, which I didn’t have time to explore this time around. It surely isn’t Vail, where you can ski an entire season without setting eyes on the Cascade lift, for example, or Chair 10.
Then again, powder lasts for quite a long time at Mirkwood, and that’s something right there. It’s a step into the way-back machine and, I have to admit, there’s something about that which I find very, very appealing.
Check it out for yourself, starting at their website: www.skimonarch.com/
Or read more about Monarch and see more pictures from my learn-to-ski article here: www.realvail.com/MonarchMountain
Karin Peck and her daughter Allison watch the action on the mountain from the deck.
Bailey the dog chills at the burger stand at the Monarch sun deck.
Affordability is key.
Bode the dog enjoys the pet-friendly Super 8 motel.
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