GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado - The chair lifts were finally running at Sunlight Mountain Resort Friday, but Gerry Vanderbeek was having none of it."I love climbing. I was born to climb," said the long-time Glenwood Springs resident and avid skier, as he made his way up the Joslin run with climbing skins on the bottoms of his brand new telemark skis.It was his second lap of the day on Sunlight's official opening day for the 2012-13 season."I've already been up 18 times this fall, between here and Aspen," he said. "Climbing gives you time to reflect, it's good aerobic exercise, the views are wonderful, and you get to meet a lot of great people."I'll get on the lifts eventually ... I do need to start getting some more [downhill] turns in," Vanderbeek said.Opening day at Sunlight drew about 550 skiers and snowboarders to take advantage of the fresh snow that fell earlier this week."That's definitely ahead of last year's opening day," said Sunlight Assistant Manager Tom Hays, although he didn't have a specific number for comparison.Sunlight's scheduled opening was delayed one week due to a lack of early-season snow.The recent storm gave Sunlight a 20-inch base on top and 18 inches at the bottom, enough to open seven of 10 beginner runs and 11 of 20 intermediate runs. All advanced and expert terrain remains closed until additional snow falls.The National Weather Service was calling for a new storm to bring another 2 to 4 inches of snow overnight to the Sunlight area, and another 1 to 5 inches today and continuing into tonight."It looks like a good system," Hays said, as snow had begun to fall just as the lifts were closing Friday. "Another 4 to 6 inches would really help a lot, and we'll be able to get some more terrain open."
Among the opening-day visitors were the Wall family from Rifle. Scott and Connie Wall took the day off to bring their sons, TJ and Connor, and friend Alex Booth up for the day.With no school on Fridays in the Garfield Re-2 School District this year, due to the switch to a four-day school week, Fridays at Sunlight could become a tradition for the Walls and other Rifle-area families."This will be our Friday retreat," Connie Wall said."It's decent," Scott Wall said of the snow conditions. "It's a little icy in spots and there's a little dirt showing, but there's still powder where they didn't groom." Hays said Sunlight is offering its usual Saturday kids club on Fridays for Re-2 students, in an effort to provide another option for families looking for Friday activities for their kids.Julian von Wodtke just moved to Glenwood Springs from Vermont - where he just recently graduated from high school - and landed a job as a lift operator at Sunlight.But he was still able do a little snowboarding on opening day."I heard Glenwood Springs was a beautiful place, and I wanted to take a little time off from school before college to enjoy the Colorado mountains," von Wodtke said."I've been up on the mountain for orientation, but I'm looking forward to getting some snowboarding in," he said as he was leaving the parking lot for his first turns of the season.The 20-inch base was enough to motivate Steven Allen of Carbondale to head to Sunlight for opening day."I work at Ajax [Bike & Sport] in Carbondale, and got my season pass for Sunlight as part of my job, so I'll be up here at least once a week," Allen said. "It's a little thin in spots, but where there's powder it's pretty thick. I didn't hit any rocks."Steve Beham, who owns the Bayou Restaurant in downtown Glenwood Springs, is a Sunlight opening day regular."Let's just put it this way, the conditions on the mountain are not nearly as bad as the condition of my body," he joked as he took a mid-morning break.Audrey Buccini of Glenwood Springs was snowboarding with her friend Erin Bell, who just moved to Glenwood Springs from Virginia."It's a beautiful day, and it's not even that cold," Buccini said.Added Bell, "I'm so excited to be finally riding, it's great."Opening day at Sunlight Mountain also marked the grand opening of the new Defiance BBQ restaurant in the neighboring Sunlight Inn, which is under new ownership.Clayton and Kaje Ryon purchased the inn last year from longtime owners Pierre and Gretchen Dubois, and are just now reopening the inn's restaurant with a southern barbecue flair, Kaje Ryon said."We're serving up chicken and cole slaw" for aprs ski, she said, adding that the restaurant and bar will have happy hour from 4-6 p.m. during the ski firstname.lastname@example.org