Paddling on Powder

Photo: courtesy Monarch Mountain Facebook page

Photo: courtesy Monarch Mountain Facebook page

Kayaks on Snow closes ski season, previews raft season at Monarch Mountain

By Steve Graham

If you’re not quite done with ski season, but anxious to break out the kayak, Monarch Mountain has you covered.

Before rafting season ramps up on the Arkansas River through Salida and Buena Vista, Chaffee County’s favorite ski resort closes the season with its signature event, the 13th annual Kayaks on Snow.

Monarch event coordinator Kathryn Wadsworth expects 60 to 75 competitors to race down the mountain in kayaks for hundreds of spectators on Saturday, April 20.

Kayakers get pulled up the mountain in their boats by specially equipped snowcats, and race back down in four-person heats. They glide through a skier cross-style course with berms, banks and bumps, and splash into an icy pond at the end.

Kayakers keep racing in elimination rounds until the top four race for three grand prizes: a Monarch season pass, a standup paddleboard and a bike.

Wadsworth said the event was first imagined as a last hurrah for the ski season and a kickoff to the rafting season, when all those ski runs melt into the rivers.

“Like a lot of great ideas, it started with sitting around and having a few beers and scribbling on a napkin,” she said. “… We like to think of our snow melting and letting people kayak it in the summer.”

Registration for Kayaks on Snow costs $30 on the day of the event. All competitors receive a souvenir t-shirt, but must provide their own kayak, life jacket and helmet.

Admission is free for spectators, who can easily walk to the kayakers’ finishing line from the base area. There will also be vendors and giveaways throughout the day, and discount $54 lift tickets are available.

“People can ski and enjoy the day and watch this crazy madness,” Wadsworth said.

She said it’s a great way to close out the ski runs. With unusually deep snow still on the mountain, Monarch was able to extend the year by two weeks, but will close for the season on April 21, the day after Kayaks on Snow.

“We’ve had a great season,” Wadsworth said. “We’ve had a ton of snow. Enjoy the beautiful spring snow and get outside and enjoy.”

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