I just got back into Boulder last night after three days on the road, skiing at Arapahoe Basin, Crested Butte, and finally cat-skiing at Monarch Mountain. We couldn't have timed it better: The day of the cat-trip, an unexpected storm pounded Monarch with snow. This small-but-steep day-resort has been running their cat-skiing operation off the back side of the mountain since 1989, and the terrain is pretty serious-think 30 to 45-degree lines through narrow chutes and open bowls. Thankfully, it was dumping snow the entire time we were there. About a foot fell throughout the day, giving photographer Scott DW Smith plenty photo-ops, and leaving the rest of us with face shots a-plenty. The new snow-on top of a hard wind-crust-created some worrisome sloughs throughout the day. Miniature slides caused more than one person in our group to fall, and one of the guides was partially buried in a slough while ski-cutting a slope. (He was OK).
The drive back was terrifying, as it seemed like it was snowing throughout the whole state. Not once during the three-hour drive back did we see a patch of open sky. So if you're planning on heading to the Colorado mountains this weekend, be sure to pack the fat skis.
-Pieter, March 9, 2006
Pieter's "Untracked Line" on Monarch Snowcat Tours will appear in a 2006-2007 issue of Skiing.