Season pass holders will be able to ski any day they want to this season at Monarch, but people buying single-day lift tickets will need to plan ahead.
Monarch Mountain’s 2020-2021 operating plan includes wearing masks on chairlifts, limited capacity indoors and a push to get people to purchase lift tickets ahead of time, among other changes to address the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Randy Stroud, Monarch’s general manager and chief operating officer, said the mountain worked with Colorado Ski Country on its operating plan, but added that Monarch’s plan is unique since the scenario is different here in Chaffee County, where tourism decreases in the winter, than say Summit County.
“There’s no united plan; it would be impossible to do that,” he said, but added masks was something all of the resorts were requiring.
“The social distancing is stuff people are already accustomed to doing,” Stroud said about the plan.
Monarch’s plan is designed to break up pinch points where people normally gather in crowds. The lift line is one of those places, so after Dec. 12 people won’t be able to buy a lift ticket on weekends at the ticket window. The same rule will apply Dec. 26 – Jan. 3. People will need to buy their tickets online ahead of time.
The mountain is also encouraging people to ski during the week when it’s typically quieter. Stroud said on a busy day in the past, over 3,000 skiers and snowboarders would ride Monarch while that number is in the hundreds for a typical weekday.
“There’s 20-30 days a year we’ll have to do something creative to keep the numbers down,” he said. “On Saturday and Sundays tickets will be limited and peak holidays too. My biggest suggestion is if you know the date you want to come, book now because it will likely sell out.”
Season pass holders, however, will be able to show up any day and ride without having to make a reservation first.
“They can come every day with no speed bumps,” Stroud said. “We’re recommending week days, but they can come any day.”
Tickets will only be scanned once per visit, but will need to be presented to the ticket scanner after that to acknowledge it has been scanned.
With less people on the mountain, people will have more terrain to themselves.
“The overall experience of the guests will be improved with Saturday and Sunday numbers reduced,” Stroud said. “Commit now and be ensured a great experience.”
Monarch’s buildings, meanwhile, will have its seating limited to 50 percent capacity. There will be seating time limits at every table, sack lunches won’t be allowed inside and people will need to get dressed and boot up at home or in their vehicles. Other changes include booths with dividers, less bar stools inside, grab-and-go only items at the Gunbarrel Cafeteria, a new food trailer outside and more seating outside where guests will be encouraged to eat.
Masks are required not only indoors, but also in the lift lines and on the lifts. Individuals will be permitted to ride any lift alone except for the Pioneer quad if they request.
The ski and ride school, meanwhile, will only offer half day options while childcare will not be available this season. “We want to reduce contact with them,” Stroud said. “For a full day (lesson) we take custody and eat with them. We want to eliminate that situation. We want parents to take control of their kids this year.”
For the Monarch Cat Skiing operation, the entire cat will need to be booked by one party this season; individual seats won’t be sold.
People can view Monarch’s entire operating plan at skimonarch.com beginning Friday.
While there will be plenty of changes this year at Monarch, the mountain is still hoping for a long season this winter.
Monarch is planning on opening for the season on Nov. 20, but could move that date up if it gets some early snow.
“If we have enough snow we’ll open earlier,” Stroud said. “We’re committed to staying open longer if we can too. We want to be open as long as possible so people get the most value out of the season pass that they can.”
And once it does open, people will have to take some responsibility to help keep it open.
“We’re doing everything to set the stage for them, but we’ll need our guests to help us get through this,” Stroud said. “We’re all in this together.”