Words by Caleigh Smith.
Nestled between the boundaries of Bald Mountain, William’s Peak and Sunlight Peak is a small gem. It’s usually an earthy tone and many people seek its riches on foot in the summer times. Often, however, it becomes white and glistening, and that’s when people seem to value it most. This coveted yet small jewel, one which many in Colorado Ski Country have heard little of, offers many of the perks of big-resort skiing.
It’s one of the few resorts in Colorado where you can still get a slice of good pizza for less than a fortune and a lift ticket for half that of other, larger resorts. It’s arguably one of the most comfortable and homey resorts as well, boasting a diverse range of terrain options. With only three lifts, Sunlight Mountain still delivers the goods. The Heathen is a 52-degree double diamond, yet there is also plenty of beginner and intermediate terrain in between: 75% of the mountain in fact. It’s the perfect place to take the little ones, the big ones, the fast ones, the slow ones, and all those in between who seek a convenient, friendly, comfortable day on the slopes in sunny Colorado.
It was at Sunlight that I first slid down a snowy hill on two small wooden planks, slightly intentionally, and I still remember the hula hoop my dad used to teach me. Although, it might be the nostalgia and perceived remembrance of seeing so many pictures as a kid. Either way, I learned how to ski when I was a wee lass, only two years old and I haven’t stopped since.
It was pink, small, and held low at my waist height as we pizza’d our way down the bunny hill beneath Tercero lift (the others are aptly named Primo and Segundo). My boxy, entirely stylish ‘90s skis and boots would skid or slide unpredictably and there was the hoola, only if I needed it and comforting either way. We slid down the corduroy, my dad rotating between skiing backwards in front of me on steeper rollers, and then behind me, invisible and out of mind as I was convinced I could ski to the lodge all by my big girl self.
Soon I graduated to solo missions and the pizza made way for the occasional and coveted french fry. Elusive though they were, french fries became my style as I graduated to a fancy new pair of 2000s’ slightly less boxy yet equally stylish kids’ skis and boots. I entered the Buddy Werner introductory program for alpine ski racing at Sunlight as soon as my late birthday would let me (see chubby-faced picture of lucky number 14 below). After my foundational education at Sunlight, I progressed to bigger mountains and the allure of telemarking with more acreage to choose from.
However, I must give credit where credit is due, and the little Sunlight Mountain Resort just 12 miles south of Glenwood Springs, CO takes the vast majority of it. It’s there that many realize their passion for skiing (or snowboarding, I’m not biased), and I count myself among those lucky few for which Sunlight Mountain Resort is home.
If you’re planning a trip to Glenwood and this infamous and worthy mountain, don’t be quite so worried about your pocket! Glenwood holds a number of reasonable hotels, hostels, and inns, not to mention the famed (and haunted?) Hotel Colorado. A plethora of delicious and affordable meals lie at the confluence of the Roaring Fork and Crystal Rivers. Once at the mountain, parking is free. Also free is shuttle-less access to line-less lifts for a relaxing and fun day on the family-oriented slopes.
Although a little less free, Sunlight, during this gloriously snowy 2016/2017 season, has the “Sunny 700 lift ticket”. This winter marks Sunlight’s 50th anniversary and in commemoration, you can purchase a day pass for a steal: $700. In addition to a lift ticket, you also receive a special, limited edition pair of Sunlight’s 50th Anniversary Meier skis and a pass to the newly opened Iron Mountain Hot Springs. Worth every penny for a total combined experience that many would consider priceless.