Winter is officially here, and that means most Coloradans are putting away their hiking boots in favor of their ski boots as the 2018 skiing/snowboarding season kicks off. I say “most” because some Coloradans (like me) don’t own a pair of ski boots and have never even attempted a Bunny Hill. *GASP* “You mean you live in Colorado and you don’t ski or snowboard!?” Yes, believe it or not, there exist people in this winter sports-centric state who don’t ski. It’s a real thing.
But, fellow non-skiers rejoice! Because one resort not very far from home just made it possible for people like us to still get our fix of the great snowy outdoors without having to shell out hundreds of dollars for a pass or equipment… or lessons.
Monarch Mountain, outside of Salida, just opened its newest winter recreation attraction: a 450-foot snow tubing hill. The tubing hill has been in the works since summer when the United States Forest Service gave the go-ahead for the project in June. Ground clearing began immediately for the tubing park in the area below the Ramble On and Little Mo runs where the tubing lanes intersect with those ski trails. The ribbon was officially cut and the first rides officially taken the last week of November. The attraction will remain open for the duration of the season.
The park is open Friday through Sunday, as well as during holidays, from 9am to 4pm. Tubing times are sold in hour-long blocks every fifteen minutes. So while the park itself closes at 4, the last start time for tubing is 3pm. Tickets are $24 for the first hour and $14 for each additional hour. Monarch season pass holders can enjoy 30 percent off these ‘Regular Season’ rates, although not during ‘Peak Season.’ Monarch denotes ‘Peak Season’ as the dates of Dec. 26 to Jan. 6, Feb. 16 to 17, and Mar. 11 to 15. During these dates, tubing tickets are $28 for the first hour and also $28 for each additional hour. So be mindful of these when planning your excursion.
All ages are welcome at the park, although an adult must accompany children under 6 years old. Guests are not permitted to bring their own tubes or sleds as Monarch Mountain provides each person with a tube at the park. The park also includes a rope tow line that guests may attach their tube to at the bottom of the hill that will pull it, with them inside, back up to the top – completely eliminating the exhausting work of lugging your own tube back up the hill yourself.
Guests are required to sign a liability waiver in order to receive their tickets. Watching a brief instructional video is also required before entering the park. The staff at Monarch Mountain recommend that you check in at the Tubing Park Check-In Yurt at least 30 minutes before your scheduled start time to ensure that the preparatory work doesn’t cut into your tubing time. Appropriate winter clothing is recommended as well. If you don’t have a coat or snow pants, those items are available for rent from the lodge, as are helmets (which are encouraged but not required).
While other widely known ski resorts such as Vail and Copper Mountain offer snow tubing as part of their facilities, this one at Monarch is particularly significant to residents of Southern Colorado because of its accessibility. Little over two hours of travel time starts to become unrealistic for most people, especially for only one hour of tubing. And while those places up north may be relatively easily accessible to us here in Pueblo, they’re less so for our friends over in Westcliffe, Walsenburg, Saguache, etc. Monarch Mountain is at least a little more in range. Not to mention the traffic on Highway 50 is preferable to that of the dreaded I-70 tenfold.
Of course, you can always take it upon yourself to seek out a nice sized hill down the street to tube for free after a good snowstorm. But the fact that more ski resorts in Colorado are incorporating winter recreation opportunities that aren’t strictly skiing and snowboarding is encouraging for those of us that make up the minority in a population of ski and snowboard fanatics.