Monarch Mountain is starting a conversation with the U.S. Forest Service about expanding into No Name Basin and opening up new, lift-serviced terrain on the other side of the Continental Divide.
The new lift in No Name has been approved conceptually by the Forest Service as part of Monarch’s 2011 master development plan. Now Monarch is making an official request to get the process going, Randy Stroud, Monarch general manager and chief operating officer, said.
“The primary purpose is to increase the number of blue runs on the mountain,” Stroud said. “It fits a need because we’re somewhat lacking in that.”
The project, which is still a few years down the road, would add roughly 350 acres of mostly intermediate and gladed terrain with an approximately 1,000-vertical-foot drop.
“It will help spread the wealth out there,” Stroud said, adding that the area would also have one or more green trails as well.
A small warming hut, about 1,000 square feet, in No Name Basin is also in the mountain’s master plan.
The Forest Service will conduct an environmental assessment in the area, evaluating the terrain and factors like drainages, trees, geological conditions, wildlife parameters and other items.
Public scoping will also take place, but Stroud said that’s about two years down the road. The new lift could be added in three or four years.
Before the mountain expands on the other side of the Continental Divide, however, Monarch first plans on making sure its infrastructure is adequate.
In the 2011 master plan, the ski area wanted to increase its skier visits to around 200,000 a year, and Stroud said they figured they’d need a new lift to do that. The resort, however, has been hovering around that number the last couple of years even without the new lift. It had about 193,000 skier visits last year.
“With the increase in visitors, we need to spread them out more,” Stroud said.
Increased traffic has shown the need for a bigger parking area, and Monarch plans on tackling that next. “We’d like to do that as early as this summer,” Stroud said. “We really need to double down to make sure our infrastructure can handle (the new lift).”
Children’s services and patrol services are other infrastructure Monarch plans on improving.
Monarch also plans on continuing to thin trees affected by beetle kill the next two years. No Name also needs some thinning to mitigate fire danger, Stroud said.
Closing earlier than expected this season and the resulting loss of income could push the plan back a little, but Stroud said they’re still moving forward with it.
“It’s a pretty significant financial commitment so we need all of our ducks in a row,” he said.