Celebrating 50 Years of Skiing
The year 1966 saw the introduction of Star Trek, The Monkees, Batman, the Toyota Corolla, Twister, AstroTurf, Doritos and Wite-Out. Making its debut on the Colorado scene was a new ski area, now known as Sunlight Mountain Resort. Glenwood Springs’ hometown winter resort is celebrating its 50th year of operation this season and it’s still beloved by locals. Tom Jankovsky, the general manager for Sunlight Mountain Resort since 1985, says, “We welcome everyone to help us celebrate and come along for the ride.”
In the mid-1960s, local winter sports enthusiasts determined that the terrain on Compass Mountain, with its views of Mount Sopris and the Elk Mountain Range, would make an ideal ski area. Locals pooled their money to build a lodge and some very basic facilities. On December 16, 1966, a single chairlift hauled riders up to a few trails on 420 acres. In its first year of operation, the Sunlight Ranch Company tallied 15,000 skier days. Part-time employees and volunteers supervised the base and subcontractors managed ski rentals, food service, and the ski school.
More trails and a second chairlift were added in 1973, and skier days more than doubled. The resort’s name was changed to Ski Sunlight in 1981 after the US Forest Service approved plans for expansion.
In 1987, the Tercero lift was installed to access 45 more acres on the upper mountain, topping out at an altitude of 9,898 feet. Six years later, Sunlight Extreme opened with 12 new black and double-black diamond trails. Snowmaking was introduced in the mid-1990s, providing more consistent conditions. Topping 100,000 skier visits and adding summer activities prompted the name-change to Sunlight Mountain Resort in 1996.
Colorado’s Most Affordable Ski Trip
Now with 67 trails covering over 680 acres of terrain and a vertical drop of over 2,000 feet, Sunlight Mountain Resort offers exceptionally diverse slopes. The terrain features everything from cruisers to heart-stopping steeps. Sunlight Mountain’s Extreme challenges all experts. With a pitch of 52 degrees, the Heathen is one of the state’s steepest trails. Sunlight is also home to one of Colorado’s longest trails, Ute, a cruising beginner slope that winds more than 2.5 miles from summit to the base. For boarders, there are two terrain parks. Base facilities house a restaurant, bar, equipment rental, retail shop, ski and snowboard education center, and children’s center.
Sunlight is known for its reasonable prices; Sunlight’s $63 adult lift ticket is half the cost of its glitzy neighbors in Aspen and Vail. With the ever-popular Ski/Swim/Stay package, kids under 12 years of age ski free with every paid adult. Rates start at $99, including lodging, lift tickets and Glenwood Hot Springs Pool passes.
Sunlight’s Lodge was improved with a redesign of the kitchen and cafeteria last season. This year, Sunlight invested in all new ski and snowboard rental equipment. The new line features the latest technologies in rocker tips, lightweight construction, and all-mountain performance. New state-of-the art tuning equipment will maintain those sharp edges. Inside the rental shop, non-slip flooring and innovative storage systems are in place. More than 150 day-lockers have been replaced in and around the Lodge.
Celebrating 50 Years
To commemorate its 50th birthday, Sunlight worked with local videographer Chris Tribble, owner of Versatile Productions in Carbondale, to create a series of short documentaries that depict locals with personal ties to the resort. Don Vanderhoof and Floyd Diemoz, who were instrumental in creating Sunlight, tell stories about how it was developed. Self-described “powderhound” Russ Brown, now 60 years old, grew up skiing at the resort. He says he plans to ski there 40 more years. To watch the documentary series, visit the video link on Sunlight’s website.
Limited-edition 50th anniversary skis and snowboards have also been designed to commemorate Sunlight’s anniversary. They were created by Meier Skis, which originated in Glenwood Springs and is now based in Denver. The boards are made from Colorado beetle-kill pine trees, so each one has unique woodgrain pigmentation. The snowboards are patterned after Meier’s best-selling, award-winning Quick Draw design; graphic artist Gina Sheldrake of Weldon Designs in Glenwood Springs created the cool retro look. The skis are available for $599 plus shipping; the snowboards sell for $499.
It’s not a party without beer, so Glenwood Canyon Brewing Company has crafted a special Sunlight birthday brew modeled after a German Helles Lager. Master Brewer Todd Mallory says Helles has a straw color and is “mildly hopped” with German Noble hops. It finishes with a smooth malty character. Try a pint before it’s gone.
Sunlight Mountain Resort has that retro vibe. Faithful Glenwoodites are loyal sentinels. Generation after generation have strong ties to this place. Kids learn to ski here. Families spend time together. Friends gather on the sunny deck. Everyone smiles. Maybe that’s why they call it Sunlight?
For additional details, go to SunlightMtn.com.