There aren’t many Colorado ski areas not associated with a town, but Monarch is one of them. Located 20 miles west of the town of Salida, it’s one of three (out of about 150) ski areas that sit right on the Continental Divide in Colorado. The mountain began lift service in 1939, when a Chevy engine powered a rope tow to the top of a long, narrow chute called Gunbarrel; it has since expanded to around 800 acres with five lifts. Being small is the key, and that makes it a nice break from massive ski areas found elsewhere in the state. Nevertheless, the skiing is incredible and the terrain spans the gamut from nice-and-easy beginner runs, often used by the family-friendly ski school, to adrenaline-inducing steep slopes dropping off from the Divide. Because it’s an “indie” resort that has managed to keep its prices relatively low (compared to the state’s marquee resorts), Monarch has grown a clientele that returns year after year.