Salida’s Soul

With plenty of options for untracked lines and an authentic vibe, the little town that rocks makes for a perfect close-to-home winter weekend.Salida is still a bit off the radar when it comes to backcountry goodness, but just three hours from Denver, it offers up a whole platter of powdery ski and snowboard options for all ability levels.

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Baby Steps: Mirkwood Basin

If you are still new to the backcountry game or just want to rack up some lift served vertical, Monarch’s Mirkwood Basin delivers the goods. It’s a short hike to steeps and a quick cat road back to the lift. A nice line goes from Orcs at the top down into trees that hold soft snow and open into short chutes. The good? It’s controlled by patrol so you don’t need to worry about avy gear and training. The bad? You have to share.

Still Lazy: Monarach Snow Cat
If you truly want to maximize your powder intake, pony up for a day on Monarch Mountain’s snowcat, which ferries you up and down the terrain past Mirkwood. It accesses some of the steepest cat terrain around (think dropping cornices and 50-degree chutes) and the guides have the same core laid-back vibe as the area. Hint: Go late season, after March 22, when the snow is still good and the trip cost drops from $250 to $180.

Highway Stashes: perfect trees
To find free tour-to-‘em turns, you need look no further than across the highway from Monarch. Make sure your skills are up to snuff then sniff out the lines that start where the Monarch Crest bike trail starts.  The area is known as Perfect Trees. Guess why?

Touring: Old Monarach Pass
With only a short 1.5-mile skin required, Old Monarch Pass road offers a little bit of everything. It’s a fine Nordic tour on its own, but it also accesses some untracked turns in powder glades.

Spring Mountaineering: Mt. Shavano
With the largest concentration of 14ers in the state in the Collegiate Range,  the big-descent options when the snow corns up here are endless. The signature run is the Angel of Shavano, a 5,000-vertical-foot epic (if you tag the peak).

Racing: Race the divide
So proud of your backcountry prowess you want to hammer some likeminded sickos? Race the Divide  competitors power through four climbs and descents, racking up 3,500 verts to crown a resident badass.

Beta: salida mountain sports
The man when it comes to Salida backcountry is Nate at Salida Mountain Sports (, who skis the bc pretty much every day. Stop in and ask for recommendations, get your boards tuned and rent any equipment you need. •|

The best place for an erudite dirtbag to stay in Salida is the Simple Lodge and Hostel ( This is no Eurotrash hangout, rather it’s more of a hipster bed and breakfast that serves the backcountry community. You can go cheap and solo and rent a bunk for just $22/night or opt for a classy private family room, which is still a great deal at $76/night with one queen bed and two twins. Or check out the Circle R Motel ( a clean, classic kitsch motel that counts kayakers and skiers among its top clientele. For the best eating experience in town, go big and head to Laughing Ladies ( The peppery salmon filet with sweet potatoes is the best fish EO’s discriminating editors who grew up on the beach have tasted in Colorado.

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