Salida, Colorado

Photo: City of Salida, Colorado

Spring skiing is right around the corner. Hopefully. Bright sunshine. Soft snow. Fewer layers. You’re itching to be in Colorado just thinking about it. But this year, you should mix it up. You should leave the big resorts—Aspen Snowmass, Keystone, Telluride, Vail—behind. You should try one of the smaller ski areas in the Rocky Mountains.

Monarch Mountain is in south-central Colorado. It’s on Monarch Pass, a high mountain road with sweeping views of the Rockies. It’s family focused and locally owned by real skiers. It covers 800 acres and receives more than 350 inches of snow annually. Plus it’s less than a half hour from Salida, one of the best places to live in the whole country.

Salida is adorable. It’s surrounded by high mountains and the Arkansas River. It was founded as a remote farming and transportation (train depot) community. When the rail service ended in the 1970s, a long decline began. It took years for the little town to pull itself back up. But aided by adventurous spirits, Salida is now thriving again. Art galleries, breweries, yoga studios, and restaurants serving comfort food have moved into Downtown’s brick Victorian buildings. A paved riverwalk runs along the water. Public pools are fed by nearby hot springs. While biking, boating, fishing, and kayaking will keep you outside and active long after the snow eventually melts.

Photo: The Amigo Motor Lodge

The Amigo Motor Lodge is one of the more recent additions to Salida. At least in its current form. The building, which is more than 60 years old, was a basic motel on the outskirts of town in its first life. A few years ago, it underwent major renovations. It now has a minimalist design, modern furniture, and southwestern accents. Though the hipster factor increased substantially, prices remained reasonable. It belongs in this quirky little town.

The lodge sits along the Monarch Spur Trail, which runs between Downtown Salida and busy U.S. Route 50. The first thing you’ll notice is a white-and-red teepee near the entrance. Airstreams and regular rooms—with huge numbers on their black doors—are behind it. Vintage coolers are now ice buckets. Animal skulls hang on the walls. Potted succulents sit anywhere with direct sunlight. There are cozy communal areas, a warm sunroom, and a hot tub, too. It’s the perfect spot to rest after a long day of adventures. Isn’t it time you book that spring ski trip already?

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