By Dan Rabin
Dan Rabin is a Boulder-based freelance writer and author of the upcoming guidebook, Colorado Breweries, scheduled for release in May 2014.
When Sunlight Mountain Resort opened in 1966, nearby Glenwood Springs added the “ski town” moniker to its well-established image as an iconic Colorado getaway. With its famous hot springs, Glenwood has long been a destination for those seeking relaxation, rejuvenation, and family-friendly recreation.
Throughout ski season, Sunlight Mountain Resort, the Glenwood Hot Springs and a variety of local lodgings have teamed up to offer the Ski Swim Stay package, a bargain travel deal aimed at families and value-oriented skiers and boarders. I recently visited Glenwood for a mid-winter getaway and to sample the Ski Swim Stay package offerings.
With rates beginning at $99 per person, you receive a lift ticket to Sunlight Mountain Resort, a pass to Glenwood Hot Springs and overnight lodging. An additional perk for families is that kids 12 and under ski free with a paying adult. The deal is good through March 31st, 2014.
After a short 12-mile drive from Glenwood, I arrived at Sunlight on a weekday morning to find a sparsely-populated parking lot steps from the mountain base. I immediately picked up on the resort’s old-school vibe. The modest base area includes everything you need – rental and retail shop, ski school, cafeteria, bar – and nothing you don’t. The casual banter between visitors and employees was evidence that Sunlight is a popular local’s destination.
The mountain itself is not large – at least by Colorado standards – but packs a surprisingly-diverse variety of terrain onto 680 acres of skiable real estate. A 2.5-mile green cruiser named Ute is among the longest runs in the state, while Heathen, a double black, is among the steepest. While Sunlight has a reputation of being a good learner’s mountain, a quarter of the topography is designated black or double black.
My well-timed visit came at the tail end of a multi-day “snow event” that had deposited a fresh blanket of fluffy pow that persisted throughout the day. Lift lines were non-existent on Sunlight’s three chairlifts. Without a particular strategy, I explored the mountain, spending much of the day on the network of near-empty blue runs accessible from the mountaintop via the Primo lift. Occasional forays onto more challenging terrain assured that my après-ski brew at the base area bar was well-deserved.
Before white settlers arrived in the Glenwood area, the mineral springs that today feed the Glenwood Hot Springs pool were visited regularly by the nomadic Ute Indians. They named the springs Yampah, which translates to “Big Medicine.” Since opening as a commercial enterprise in 1888, the springs have drawn visitors both famous and infamous, from presidents to legendary gunslingers. Glenwood Hot Springs holds the title of the world’s largest mineral hot springs pool.
I’ve visited Glenwood Hot Springs numerous times over the years, but few of these visits have come during ski season. On my recent sojourn, the hot springs had taken on a mystical quality as dense clouds of steam rose from the mineral-rich water. To further enhance the scene, snow-covered mountain slopes in the not-too-distant background faded in and out of view through the steam.
The pool is actually two pools. The warmer, one-hundred foot long therapy pool was populated with a mostly adult crowd of soakers and socializers. The adjacent pool – four times larger than the therapy pool – contained a mixed-age crowd including a plethora of families.
A variety of lodgings participate in the Ski Swim Stay package ranging from Sunlight’s slopeside condos to historic downtown Glenwood hotels. Well-mellowed from my hot springs soaking session, I made the short trip to the Hotel Glenwood Springs, my accommodations for the evening. Unpretentious and flagrantly friendly, the hotel is especially well-suited to families, as it sits next to the gondola of the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park. In the winter months, the park offers gondola rides, cave tours, an alpine coaster, and other amusements.
Adult travelers with a thirst for fresh fermentations might consider the Hotel Denver in downtown Glenwood. The historic hotel sits adjacent to the Glenwood Canyon Brewpub where a diverse selection of beers is brewed on-site (Insider tip: the staff’s go-to brew is the St. James Irish Red, a Great American Beer Festival gold medal winner).
For more information and to book a Ski Swim Stay package, visit www.sunlightmtn.com/ski-swim-stay.