GLENWOOD SPRINGS — In the 23 years he has lived in Glenwood Springs, Missing Link Band founder Nick Kuhlmann has made fond memories at Sunlight Mountain Resort’s annual Ski Spree.
Just ask him about the old Sausage Races.
“If you went to Ski Sprees in the past, you might have one of the old Sausage Races T-shirts that read, ‘Make your meat be the one to beat,’” he recalled. “They would build a giant pile of snow and angle it like a big kid’s slide, buy sausages like hard salami, grease them up and race them like a box-car race. If you won, your sausage was the one that couldn’t be beat. It was all for a good cause, a fundraiser. It was just crazy, stupid fun.”
Instead of racing down the mountain, this year’s meat can be found in the entries in one of Ski Spree’s newer events, the chili cook-off. Starting at 5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 8, Ski Spree connects with the downtown Glenwood crowd by hosting more than 20 chili cooks sharing their culinary concoctions in the Hotel Colorado’s Colorado Room starting at 5 p.m.
“Ski Spree is Sunlight’s salute to everything we love about winter: skiing, snowboarding, racing and eating lots of delicious food,” said Tom Jankovsky, Sunlight’s general manager. “It’s a chance for some midseason merrymaking; we tend to get a little crazy and have a lot of fun.”
Sunlight marketing manager Jennie Spillane said hosting the chili cook-off portion of Ski Spree at the historic Hotel Colorado links the mountain and downtown for a true community event. Ski Spree starts at 11 a.m. Saturday with the annual Rail Jam and runs through Sunday afternoon at the resort.
“We really wanted to incorporate downtown because we wanted Ski Spree to be an event for anyone, for the entire town if we can, not just for people who ski and snowboard,” Spillane said. “This year the chili cook-off is at the Hotel Colorado, and guests can enjoy chili, live music by the Missing Link Band and fireworks, all for only 10 dollars.”
Ski Spree chili cook-off attendees may purchase $10 wristbands that are also good for $10 off Sunlight lift tickets. The wristbands, required for chili cook-off attendance, are available for advance purchase in Glenwood Springs at Sunlight Mountain Resort, Sunlight Ski and Bike, the Hotel Colorado, the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association and ANB Bank.
“With Ski Spree bracelets, visitors can sample and vote for their favorite chili, save $10 on lift tickets and receive discounts at participating local businesses throughout the weekend,” Spillane said. “The proceeds benefit Sunlight’s learn-to-ski programs for children.”
Spillane said last year’s chili cook-off with the valley’s restaurants and chili cooks was a big draw for Ski Spree participants.
“Local restaurants and local cookers had a blast sharing their secret talent with others,” she said. “Tables were decorated according to the lumberjack theme. The Sunlight lodge was festive and full of happy chili eaters.”
Kuhlmann, whose band will entertain at the Hotel Colorado starting at 5:30 p.m., said Ski Spree is one of his favorite local traditions. He learned to ski at Sunlight and said the event’s atmosphere is always uplifting.
“What I love about Sunlight is that everybody’s always smiling,” he said. “Anybody who wants to have a good time goes there. It has more of a hometown flair than the bigger mountains.”
The Missing Link Band, which formed in 2005 and is a regular at many of Sunlight’s events, will play rock, R&B, blues, country and western during the cook-off. With all members pitching in on singing, the Missing Link features Kuhlmann on drums, Erik MacPherson and Paul Barker playing guitar, and Holly Guerin and Kimberly Kwiatkowski serving as the band’s two female lead vocalists. Bob Stepniewski, a manager at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park (where the band plays Music on the Mountain gigs), will add his percussion talents to Saturday’s show. The Glenwood-based band has been working on new material, including covers by the Foo Fighters, Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley.
“We’re doing some new recordings, and we’re always adding material,” he said. “We also have a new video on YouTube, our version of Johnny Cash’s and June Carter’s ‘Jackson.’”
A Glenwood Springs High School grad, Kuhlmann said playing for Ski Spree reminds him of parties growing up in the Roaring Fork Valley.
“There’s everything you need — the snow, the mountains, the people,” he said. “I love the fact that Sunlight is the kind of place where you can sit next to friends and locals you’ve known for years and just laugh and have a good time. It’s just a magical place.”
On the mountain, Ski Spree events include the United States of America Snowboard Association (USASA)-sanctioned rail jam competition at 11 a.m., a citizen’s race, live music by Johnny Kongo and the All-Stars, lodge food, and drink specials in the Sunlight bar.
“Rail Jam is part of the USASA Rocky Mountain Series and is an opportunity for competitors to accumulate points toward qualifying for the national competition in April,” Spillane said.
Spillane said the competition, which spectators can view from the Sunlight deck, features jumping, sliding, riding and tricks on a USASA-approved course of rails, boxes, pipes and walls.
“It promises to draw elite athletes from around the region to compete,” she said.
At 8 p.m. Saturday night, the city of Glenwood Springs hosts a sky show using the fireworks left over from the Fourth of July, as a toast to the Ski Spree festivities. The fireworks display will launch from Two Rivers Park, which will be closed to the public, and can best be viewed from downtown Glenwood Springs, Spillane said.
“The show can easily be enjoyed from the courtyard of the Hotel Colorado or the nearby pedestrian bridge that spans the Colorado River,” she said.
Ski Spree continues Sunday, Feb. 9, with the Need-for-Speed competition starting at 11 a.m.
“It will be a challenge to see who can clock the fastest time down Sunlight’s Joslin run,” Spillane said. “The race is open to all who wish to compete.”
Registration for Need-4-Speed takes pace from 8-10 a.m. Sunday at Sunlight. An awards presentation wraps up the Ski Spree activities at 1 p.m.
More information can be found at www.sunlightmtn.com.