This blog comes to CSCUSA from Kristen Lummis of BraveSkiMom.com
Open a trail map from Sunlight Mountain Resort and take a look. At first glance, the map looks a lot like many other small resorts in Colorado. There is one base, with a lodge, ski school, rental shop and all services adjacent to a free parking lot.
Two of the mountain’s three chairlifts depart the base and the map shows a lot of diverse blue and green runs. There are glades and a good number of black runs spread across the mountain.
All-in-all, Sunlight Mountain Resort looks like a fun mountain, a good family mountain, and a good place to learn to ski or ride. Known as a “local’s mountain” with a loyal contingent who can rock their planks and boards, Sunlight also has a reputation for being a friendly place where skiing and riding reign supreme.
Now take another look at the trail map. Look to the far left and find East Ridge. You may be surprised. But your eyes don’t deceive. Those trails are marked in black and yellow.
It’s extreme terrain.
The Heathen and Other Gravity Defying Runs
In Colorado extreme terrain is defined as cliffs with a 20 foot rise or terrain with an average pitch of more than 50 degrees. You don’t have to worry (or eagerly anticipate) pitching yourself over a cliff at Sunlight, but when it comes to steep terrain, with deep moguls and challenging glades, this little mountain skis mighty big.
Although the trail map denotes only 5% of the resorts 470 acres as extreme, the steep chutes off of gentle Grizzly Road offer plenty of challenge and diversity. There are 13 double black runs in this area, some tight in the trees, and wide open descending from a ridge line. Defiance and Inspiration are single blacks and wider than the rest. Still, all of these runs offer extreme pitch, steep bumps and tight turns. One of the runs, The Heathen, has a 52 degree pitch. It is one of the steepest in-bounds runs in the state.
Long Runs, Long Views
If extreme terrain isn’t your thing, Sunlight offers plenty of other attractions. At the opposite end of the spectrum there is Ute, a 2.5 mile beginner trail, once famous for being the longest run in Colorado. One of two rolling green groomers that glide from the top to the bottom of Sunlight, Ute allows skiers of all abilities a glimpse of beautiful big mountain views and the accomplishment of a top-to-bottom run.
Rolling Blues With Short Bursts of Bumps and Trees
Fifty-five percent of the terrain at Sunlight is intermediate and many of these runs are immaculate, perfectly groomed cruisers, like White River and Cornice.
None of the blue runs is exceptionally long, with many of them connecting back to the Primo lift which loads at mid-mountain. But there are many options for mixing it up. On the west side of the mountain, skiers and riders can intersperse groomers with moguls and glades. Charlie’s Glades is a good place to practice dodging trees, but if you’re going to venture into super-tight Joslin Glades, you need to bring your “A” game.
Mark Your Calendars: The Defiance Challenge
If you’re up for a vigorous test of your legs and will, Sunlight’s Defiance Challenge on March 1st may tempt you. A fundraiser for the Sunlight Ski Patrol, the Defiance Challenge begins at 7:00 a.m. Teams of two must ski every double black run on the mountain. It’s a vertical challenge event, so partners must also stay together and finish together. The challenge ends at 5:00 p.m. with an après ski party.
The next day, March 2nd, is Melanoma Awareness Day and a fundraiser for skin cancer research. For more information on both events, check out Sunlight’s Events page.
Ski. Swim. Stay.
The best way for out-of-town skiers to experience Sunlight is the resort’s Ski Swim and Stay package. For one affordable price, families, couples and friends can ski Sunlight Mountain Resort, swim at the famous hot springs pool, and stay in beautiful Glenwood Springs.
Finally, Sunlight is one of the Colorado Gems, which means you can get a good discount on daily lift tickets with a CSCUSA Gems Card. Gems cards are $10 each offer discounts at eight Colorado resorts. At Sunlight, the discount is $15 off of an adult ticket and $10 off for children and seniors.