Sunlight Mountain greets 50th season with upgrades | PostIndependent.com

Sunlight Mountain greets 50th season with upgrades

Winter stoke film fest

Sponsored by Sunlight Mountain Resort

7 p.m. today, Glenwood Vaudeville Revue, and Dec. 8 at the Crystal River Theatre, Carbondale.

Sunlight Mountain Resort has been doing a little bit of birthday splurging for its upcoming 50th anniversary ski season, and the celebration is about to begin.

As the Glenwood Springs ski area prepares to open Dec. 9, a few upgrades are on tap for longtime patrons and visitors alike, starting with a complete overhaul of its rental equipment fleet.

In addition to buying all-new ski and snowboard equipment, Sunlight was able to purchase all of the new and used equipment from the former Sports Authority Glenwood Springs store after it went out of business this summer.

“That ended up being a great opportunity for us to get some top-of-the-line equipment and to put it back to use,” said Troy Hawks, marketing and sales director for the resort.

“A lot of it had never even seen the snow,” he said. “This represents a big investment and puts us in really good shape for several seasons to come.”

The new equipment is available for season and day rentals at the Sunlight Ski and Bike Shop in downtown Glenwood, and for day rentals at the newly remodeled rental shop up at the ski area.

Rental shop upgrades include a new equipment racking system and layout that should help get people onto the slopes faster, Hawks said.

“We had some pretty long lines during the Christmas and spring breaks last year, and we should be able to process more people more quickly now,” he said.

In addition, Sunlight has converted the former outdoor Grizzly Bar into a new ski and snowboard demo center.

“We always had offered demos, but this is going to put it a little more front and center with our guests,” Hawks said.

All brands that are carried by the rental shop will be available to demo for an hour or two, or for a full day. The new limited edition 50th anniversary Meier skis will also be available this season for demo and will be offered as prizes for several drawings that are being planned throughout the anniversary year.

On the mountain, Sunlight replaced the haul rope, or cable, on the Tercero lift that services the lower part of the mountain.

“It’s one of those improvements that people don’t always notice, but it should result in a smoother, maybe even a little quicker ride just because it’s new cable,” Hawks said.

The new investments signal a rebound for the small, family-owned ski area following the 2008 recession, which Hawks said had a significant impact on Sunlight’s ability to make improvements in the years to follow.

Upgrades to the ski area’s restroom facilities two years ago, and the kitchen and cafeteria last season, were the start of an aggressive reinvestment program that continues.

“With another good season this year, people can expect some nice improvements to come,” Hawks said.

Even with an average snow year last season, Sunlight’s skier numbers were up about 9 percent, he said.

On the marketing front, Sunlight is also partnering with the Glenwood Hot Springs Pool and the Iron Mountain Hot Springs to offer a “slope and soak” package that proved to be popular last season.

“That’s really our leg up on some of the other ski areas in the state,” Hawks said. “With those partnerships we become more of a destination and not just a day ski area.”

The “ski-swim-stay” package offered through Glenwood Springs Tourism was also up 12 percent last year.

The smaller Colorado ski areas also continue to be part of the “Gems” partnership through Colorado Ski Country USA, offering discounted tickets for multiple days of skiing at places like Sunlight, Powderhorn and Ski Cooper.

“For the small ski areas, it’s really about affordability,” Hawks said. “If places like Sunlight or Powderhorn didn’t exist, a lot of families would lose access to the sport because they simply can’t afford it.

“That’s an important thing for the health of the sport overall, and I think the big resorts recognize that as well,” he said.

For Sunlight, the upcoming season is all about celebrating 50 years of the Glenwood Springs community’s connection to its small-town ski area, Hawks said.

On opening day, Sunlight will be handing out free Sweet ColoraDough doughnuts to the first 50 people in the lift line. The ski area’s actual birthday is Dec. 16, and on Dec. 17 Sunlight’s official vehicle sponsor, Bighorn Toyota, will be on hand to give away a free pair of the 50th anniversary Meier skis. It’s also Bighorn’s 40th birthday that day.

Glenwood Canyon Brew Pub has also crafted a special 50th anniversary beer, and food and beverage discounts will be offered for season pass holders.

Throughout the season, Sunlight will be honoring its big birthday, from the Winter Stoke Film festival tonight at the Glenwood Vaudeville Revue and on Dec. 8 at the Crystal Theatre in Carbondale, to the Feb. 4 and 5 Ski Spree celebration.

“Ski Spree is a great event to have on the mountain and down in town, so that some of the folks who used to ski can come and reminisce and talk about the old days,” Hawks said. “There’s always been a real connection between the community and the mountain.”

Another feather in Sunlight’s cap for the anniversary season will be the fact that the annual Heathen Challenge on Jan. 14-15 will be a qualifying event for the 2017 Ski Mountaineering World Championship to be held in Transcavallo, Italy.