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As the nights turn crisp, and with the first snowfall already on the peaks, skiers across the region turn their attention to our favorite sport, and our local ski resort. Back on March 14, as the coronavirus known as COVID-19 began to spread, Governor Jared Polis on only a few hours notice, shut down every ski resort in Colorado. Six months on, with a pandemic affecting literally every facet of daily lives, skiers wonder: what will Monarch Ski Resort do to ensure a ski season?

Monarch’s GM-CEO Randy Stroud has provided the vision; he describes as “a dance that we will take together”.

The plan has been developed working with Colorado Ski Country, the industry group to which all Colorado ski areas (except Vail Resorts) belong. “I sit on the board and this plan is a formulation that all the ski resort GM’s have contributed to,” said Stroud. He reinforced the consistency across all Colorado resorts (including Vail) saying “guests won’t be able to say, ‘you make me wear a facemask, I’ll go somewhere else’. There won’t be another resort to go to — we are all following the same rules.”

Embargoed until 5 a.m. Friday: Monarch’s message to the community from GM-CEO Randy Stroud

Monarch Slopestyle has become a favorite mountain annual event. courtesy of Monarch Mountain.

“It has certainly been an interesting spring and summer. Now it is time to turn our attention to this Winter and what Monarch Mountain is offering for this 2020-2021 Ski Season. Monarch Mountain plans to open on Friday, November 20, 2020. Should there be enough snow to open sooner, we will certainly do so.

As you may expect, there will be some changes to our operations so to abide by the rules set forth by our local and state health officials. These changes we have readily accepted knowing that without them we would not be able to provide for you an environment that is conducive to your well-being as well as the well-being of our staff. In the end, this season will heavily depend on the “It Takes Two to Tango” principal.

We will do everything in our power to make sure we have set the stage for the season to be successful, but we will need you, our guest, to be a part of this success as well. As long as we can do this dance together, we are going to be able to do what we all are passionate about doing; being outdoors and that feeling of weightlessness as we make that big turn.

If I may?… I plead with all of you to consider the following:

  • Avoid weekends when possible. If given the choice, we strongly recommend skiing the weekdays. If there has ever been a time for a “Weekday Warrior” movement, this is the time. We know that is not possible for everyone, but those who can and do will be helping those who cannot.
  • Avoid historically busy days. This season, these days are December 26 through January 3, MLK weekend, and Presidents Day weekend. Let’s let our more holiday constrained visitors have some fun during this time.
  • Keep checking www.skimonarch.com for developing stories and updates, or stay in the loop to all of our offerings by joining our newsletter from the website.
  • Take some time to jazz up your vehicle for awesome picnics … just sayin…may as well have some fun with it. Of course, should we need to adjust as the environment — if it either worsens or improves — we will.

Uphill Skiers Photo Courtesy of Melissa McLean Jory in the Monarch Women’s Social Club

So without further ado … at this time here are the dance steps we will be taking together:

Ticket Sales

  • All Season pass holders will have access to the lifts any day of the week all season long. No blackout dates and no reservation needed.
  • Blue Cardholders will have access to the lifts any day of the week all season long. No blackout dates and no reservation needed.
  • Any purchaser of a four-pack from a special preseason event will have access to the lifts all season long except for blacked-out dates as designated on the ticket: December 26 through January 3, and February 13 and 14.
  • Any purchaser of an online ticket will have access to the lifts on the day they select, if available, and as designated on the ticket. The number of tickets sold each day will be variable to reduce peak visitation periods.
  • Purchase of a ticket onsite at the ticket windows will not be available on Saturdays and Sundays throughout the season starting December 12, 2020.
  • Day tickets for any Saturday or Sunday starting December 12, 2020, will have to be purchased online no later than the night before, if not already sold out. The number of tickets sold each day will be limited to reduce peak visitation periods.
  • The purchase of a ticket onsite at the ticket windows will not be available December 26, 2020, through January 3, 2021. Day tickets will have to be purchased online no later than the night before, if not already sold out. The number of tickets sold each day during this period will be limited to reduce peak visitation periods.

Guest Services

  • Face coverings will be mandatory to wear anywhere on the Monarch campus including outdoors where six-foot distancing is not achievable.
  • Face coverings will be mandatory at all times while indoors and can be removed only for the purpose of eating or drinking.
  • All Monarch employees will wear face coverings and participate in daily health screenings.
  • Social Distancing, as prescribed by local and state health officials, will be maintained at all times.
  • The seating capacity in each of the rooms on campus has been reduced by 50%.
  • Overall capacity levels of the main lodge will be monitored and will be limited. Those needing shelter when the lodge reaches capacity will need to do so in their vehicles.
  • There will be seating time limits at every table. No lengthy reserving/hoarding of tables.
  • Hosts will be available to assist those with questions and concerns at each level during peak times.
  • Food and/or beverage that has not been prepared by Monarch Mountain cannot be brought into the lodge. “Sack lunches” will need to be eaten outdoors or in one’s vehicle.
  • Changing of one’s clothing should be done at home, hotel room, or at one’s vehicle.
  • Items left in the lodge unattended will be picked up and moved to Lost and Found at the Guest Service Desk.
  • The Rental and Lesson Center capacity will hold strictly to guidelines set by the local and state health agencies.
  • The Season Pass check-in area has been expanded and updated.
  • Ticket windows have been updated to accommodate touch-free credit card processing as well as providing partitions between guests.
  • Plexiglass shields have been installed at all guest-facing areas.
  • Readily available hand sanitizing stations have been placed throughout the lodge.
  • Signage will be placed throughout the campus to educate, direct, and encourage guests regarding new protocols.

Monarch Mountain (Photo Courtesy of Powder Alliance.

  • Childcare at the Children’s Center has been suspended for the season.
  • Sanitation and cleaning regimens have been significantly enhanced throughout the lodge and bathroom
  • A COVID-19 information page has been added to our website: https://www.skimonarch.com/covid19-info/

Mountain Operations

  • All guests will be required to wear face coverings while in the lift line and while riding on lifts.
  • Cohorts and/or family members may ride the lift together.
  • Individuals will be permitted to ride alone should they request to do so at all lifts except for the Pioneer Lift (Four-Seater).
  • When necessary, individuals will ride with another individual on the Pioneer Lift (Four-Seater) with two empty seats in between each individual.
  • Social distancing will be adhered to at each lift with extra spacing provided at each lift maze.
  • Masks or face coverings are not required while skiing or riding.
  • Gatherings in the Base Area of groups who are not cohorts will be discouraged.
  • Scanning of tickets and/or passes is only needed one time per visit. Tickets/passes will need to be readily presented to the ticket scanner at each lift to acknowledge it has been scanned already. Visual checks will be enhanced.
  • Monarch Cat Skiing will not be selling single seats. The entire Cat must be booked by one party.
  • Cat Skiing group size will follow health department guidance.
  • Parking lot shuttles will follow local health department guidance.

Monarch Entrance Sign (Photo by Taylor Sumners)

Food & Beverage

  • The Gunbarrel Cafeteria, Sidewinder Saloon, and Java Stop will be open seven days a week.
  • The Gunbarrel Cafeteria will have grab and go items only, no special orders from the grill.
  • Appropriate capacity for all food venues, as set by the local and state health agencies, will be monitored at all times.
  • Booths with dividers between them have been installed in the Sidewinder Saloon.
  • Bar stools in the Sidewinder Saloon have been removed or replaced to allow for distancing.
  • “Fly-by Burritos” is our new outdoor Food Service Trailer.
  • There is additional seating (Adirondack chairs) to encourage eating and relaxing outdoors.
  •  The Picnic Room has been converted to overflow seating areas for the main lodge. No sack lunches/coolers/crockpots, etc. will be permitted.
  • At the Sidewinder Saloon, one must wait to be seated by the host/hostess.
  • Take out options from the Sidewinder have been significantly enhanced.

Ski and Ride School

  •  Only half day lessons are available this season.
  • Afternoon lessons are discounted to help alleviate volume in the morning.
  • All programs are half-day only.
  • Face coverings are mandatory during the lesson unless appropriate physical distancing is adhered to.
  • Family private lessons are specially designed for families of all levels to learn together.
  • Private lessons are highly encouraged.
  • Childcare is not available this season.
  • Lessons for 3 to 6-year old’s, without childcare, are available.
  • Advance booking of lessons/rentals will be required the week of 12/26/20 – 01/03/21 and every Saturday/Sunday beginning 12/12/20.
  • A post-reservation/pre-arrival email will be sent to guests to inform them of what to expect

While presenting the plan late Thursday afternoon to the Chaffee COVID-19 Roundtable Leadership, Stroud was blunt about their hopes for the season, and complimented Chaffee County leadership for the collaborative approach.

“Above all else, we want to be open and honest so you can see what is transpiring and we want to be in this group and communicating. We don’t want the Ozark pool party moment [referencing a Memorial day event in Lake of the Ozarks] – we cannot have that moment that goes viral. I won’t let Chaffee County and all the other ski areas down. We want you to understand that this is on our mind, we’ve been watching you over the last few months and we see how this only works if we all collaborate.”