Monarch Mountain is an area that can get overshadowed by the

other conglomerate-owned ski areas as they occupy the Colorado ski spotlight.

When you have a phenomenally great snow year, things like size and amenities

really don’t matter. Especially when you’ve got a bunch of killer terrain out

the back gates and a snowcat operation.

Earlier in the season, Nevill Wilder was offered a free day

with Monarch’s aforementioned cat skiing. Nevill, as you might remember from

earlier in the year, grew up skiing at Monarch. His mom, Irena, used to work

for the ski area and the Wilder family still has connections. Instead of taking

the one day all for himself, Nevill coerced another couple seats in exchange

for this affordable little gig to get the word out to the

community. Thank you, Nevill!

The brothers Kirkpatrick set out from Boulder the night

before Valentine’s, facing a super extended weekend. After Monarch, we were

going to figure out something to do on Friday before rendezvousing with the

rest of the crew in Powderhorn. The drive to Salida goes past some ghost mining

operations, even scarier looking modern mines and a correctional facility! All

of our terror disappeared though when we got to Casa de Wilder and were greeted

by Belushi (left) and Sunrise.

“Sunshine has mothered 22 puppies. She sent Nevill to High North a couple

times.” –Irena Wilder. Sunshine, like her family, loves snow.

Mrs. Wilder welcomed us to their house and stuffed us on a

great dinner while we waited for Nevill to get back from Copper. Our dessert

was some awesome cheesecake made by Nevill’s 94 year-old Lithuanian-born

grandma, Ada. Next time you see Nevill, put him on the spot and ask him to

speak Lithuanian.

The crew awoke to our incredible hostess whipping up some

quiches before hopping in Nevill’s car. Nothing like egg pie to fuel up for a

long day of gnar shredding. After driving past more old mining operations we

reached the top of Monarch Pass and checked in with our guides, Chad and Andy.

Eight other people were enjoying Valentine’s day with us, as is usually the

case. Even Seth and Pollard have to share a heli with mortals sometimes.

After some steep warm-up runs, the cat dropped us off on a

wooded ridge and we got to work. There was an awesome cliff band off further

but this wasn’t the deep, fantasy type day to be hucking. We still had an

awesome time tearing up the trees.

Then we went back to more steep stuff. Shooting in the

backcountry is scary and this was my first time shooting lines. At one point I

had slough raining down on me as I posted up under a cliff.

Right after this shot, Colin kicked off the demo binding on

next year’s redesigned Line Blend. Colin said it was a super fun charging ski,

just stiff enough to really blast though sketchy conditions. I guess the

binding wasn’t up to all the power it could deliver. Big ups to Chad for

catching the ski when the binding didn’t work, Line thanks you too! After that,

Colin showed us his one ski skills on the steeps.

We kept shuttling around to the different ridges finding a

great variety of snowpack and terrain. Nev and Colin decided to show their

contempt for little saplings before the end of the day when it started to snow

and, uh, my camera became lodged in my backpack.

Huge thanks to Monarch Mountain & Snowcat Tours, Irena,

Ada, Chad and Andy. Cat skiing is sick!