For the past year, employees at the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park have been gearing up for their biggest winter yet. On Saturday, their brand new Winter on the Mountain series will kick off, featuring half a million lights, lit-up rides after dark, a giant Christmas tree, an all new set-up for their restaurant and more.
“When we say Winter on the Mountain is going to sparkle, we mean it,” said Nancy Heard, the park’s general manager. “The buildings and trees will be covered with a half million lights — that’s 35 miles of lights. Plus, the Alpine Coaster and the Soaring Eagle Zip Ride will be lighted and open for rides after dark for the first time, and we’ll have special lighting in the caves.”
The park is using almost entirely LED, low-impact lighting, and Heard said they would be monitoring its effects to make sure the display is an attraction, not an eye-sore.
Heard said Saturday will serve as a “soft opening” before the park’s Nov. 21 Holiday Kick-off Party, which will include visits from carolers and Santa.
“It’s so different that we want just kind of a soft opening to work out all the logistics,” Heard said.
One of the major differences, aside from rigging up one of the biggest light displays on the Western Slope, is the inclusion of a family-style sit-down restaurant. The Lookout Grille is introducing a new menu that will offer a fresh selection of entrees, side dishes and fritters each week. This will help make the park a night-out destination for couples, families or friends in the winter months.
A 4-D Motion Theater will host the premiere of “Winter Wipeout” on Saturday, which features snowmen racing down a snowy mountain, trying to avoid penguins along the way. “Rats Race,” “Bamboo Express” and “Pirates Rapids” will also be showing.
Heard said the inspiration from Winter on the Mountain came from a park they’ve been following for years: Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri. She said for the past three years, some of the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park profits have gone to taking its managers around the country to get ideas from other parks on how to take advantage of the winter months. Heard said she hopes Winter on the Mountain can help increase tourism to Glenwood Springs during the much slower winter months.
“We really do see it as a community event, and giving people a reason to come to Glenwood in the winter,” Heard said.
Shiela Kendall, special events manager at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, had a big role in bringing Winter on the Mountain to fruition. She said she saw how Silver Dollar City capitalized on winter festivities and wanted to bring that same idea to Glenwood.
“We really make our money in the summer, and I think most of the hotels do, also,” Kendall said. “So we’re hoping that this builds that season and makes it more powerful than it currently is.”
According to the 2014 City of Glenwood Springs Accommodations Tax Report, which lists hotel, motel, bed and breakfast and other short-term lodging revenue from the 2.5 percent accommodations tax, July saw more than three times the revenue of February with $132,418 compared to $41,504, and that’s not uncharacteristic of years past.
Kendall said in order to make the park a real destination for the winter months, she hopes local businesses will get on board to turn downtown into one of the best places to see Christmas lights on the Western Slope.
“It would be really neat if everybody in town and the businesses decorated for Christmas like crazy and got on board, and we really do make this a destination for Christmas lights,” Kendall said. “If we do it together, it could be a destination.”
Winter on the Mountain will be open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. through March 1. During the holidays, it will be open daily Nov. 21 through 30, except for Thanksgiving Day, and Dec. 19 through Jan. 4, except for Christmas day. Otherwise, the park is open Friday through Sunday.
There are a variety of ticket options available. The Winter Funday Pass, which costs $39 for adults and $34 for children ages 3 to 12, includes a tram ride, unlimited turns on the Alpine Coaster, Soaring Eagle Zip Ride, 4-D Motion Theater and laser tag arena, and two guided cave tours. A ticket for the tram alone costs $13 for adults and $8 for children who want to just view the lights, shop at the General Store or eat at the Lookout Grille. More information can be found at www.glenwoodcaverns.com.