Heading through the Mirkwood arch at the top of the Breezeway lift is like walking through the back of the wardrobe. On the other side (once you've checked your beacon), there is a magical winter wonderland just waiting for you to explore.
The previous day's skiing we did on the front side of Monarch Mountain, CO was epic. No crowds and superb 100% natural snow, we were finding stashes and face shots all day long. But none of that prepared us for what was on the other side when we explored Mirkwood.
Previously only accessible by cat, Mirkwood has been available to hike since 2005, when it was included in Monarch's special-use boundary. Peaking out at just under 12,000-feet with breathtaking 360º panoramic views, Mirkwood boasts 130-acres of extreme and varied terrain. We skied there all afternoon and didn't even scratch the surface.
We skied trees, cliffs, wide-open bowls, powdery meadows, gulleys, and steeps chutes. The off-piste, 'backcountry-within-a-resort' double-black diamond terrain was 100% natural conditions, no grooming here, with some of the best snow in Colorado.
The ungroomed conditions were truly a secret stash, the hike putting off many people. We hardly saw another soul all afternoon.
All runs were epic, Mirkwood Bowl and Orcs were super fun, wide-open bowls with knee-deep powder. All runs funnel down to the same place and lead back to the ski resort and the Breezeway lift, your chariot back up to the Mirkwood arch.
The longest hike of the day, around 20-mins, brought us to Elation Ridge. Epic, wide-open tree runs from the cat-skiing boundary. If you have the energy, the hike is well worth it.
Mirkwood Trees, Staircase, and East Trees were some of the best turns I made anywhere that season. Knee deep, untracked light powder in a variety of tight and open trees.
The natural, ungroomed conditions were definitely some of the best I've experienced in Colorado. Why fight with I-70 when everything you could ever need is right here at Monarch Mountain?
If you want to explore the backcountry, but aren't confident or don't have the experience, then Mirkwood is the next best thing. Once you pass through the arch, you could be a million miles from a ski resort.