By its very nature, skiing is a behemoth in the industry department–and just about everywhere else. For years, enthusiasts have gravitated toward the “go big or go home” mentality, seeking out the biggest and most popular mountains to find out what all the fuss is about. That trend, however, is on the downswing.

Smaller, independent ski resorts such as Monarch Mountain in Colorado are currently on the rise, with offers of lower-priced tickets and smaller crowds. According to marketing coordinator Hayley Houlihan, this is due in part to consumers’ desire to feel more like a part of the family, and less like a mere contributor to the corporation’s bottom line. In addition, Monarch’s access to wild backcountry trails give it an edge over the groomed and glossy trails found at nearby Crested Butte–a benefit that becomes even more significant in seasons that see particularly heavy snowfall.

As marketing coordinator, Houlihan is in charge of the advertising campaigns, lately putting the focus on the positive differences between Monarch and its larger, flashier cousins. They’ve adopted “Ski Independent” as their latest slogan, something that would never fly at a corporate resort. Houlihan also points out that Monarch doesn’t use any snow-making equipment, which puts the company solely in the hands of nature. True outdoor enthusiasts are likely to applaud this mindset, giving this off-the-beaten path resort a certain cachet.

Though the “Ski Independent” theme makes itself known in every other aspect of life at Monarch, the resort recently joined the Powder Alliance, which is comprised of some 20 independently-owned ski companies across North America. The program offers a number of free days at partner ski areas to any season-pass holders, giving further incentive to slope-goers who are looking for shorter lift lines and smaller crowds overall. A number of other participating resorts are located within driving distance of Monarch, and the season passes are priced significantly lower than at competing resorts–particularly when you take the Powder Alliance benefits into account.

Houlihan is quick to point out that all 17 of Monarch’s shareholders are skiing enthusiasts, who have taken on the investment as a way to share their love of the sport. This detail adds to the mountain’s strong sense of family and community, something that can be felt from the moment you glimpse the billboards that beckon you to join in the fun.