65 years of skiing in Glenwood | PostIndependent.com

65 years of skiing in Glenwood

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. At its beginning, Sunlight Mountain Resort was envisioned to be a big ski resort – well, at least a medium ski resort – complete with hotels and all. Instead, it became a relaxed ski mountain where locals could chill.Glen Hartmann skied the mountain when he was a kid. His family used to vacation here from the East Coast.”Sunlight was our hub for skiing,” he said. He later moved his own family here, and Sunlight still fit like a glove.”It was a good fit for us,” Hartmann said.An identifying characteristic of Sunlight is that over its 40 years in operation, not much has changed. And that’s the reason that people like Hartmann stick around. He’s also been part of the skier education program at the resort for the last 25 years.”It’s changed,” he said. “But it still has that local-classic feel to it. They’ve added new runs and things over the years, but it still is the classic experience.”Sunlight saw its first tracks on Dec. 16, 1966. There were only three runs and one chair lift, called the “Primo” lift, named after local rancher Primo Martino. The Primo lift took skiers up to nearly 10,000 feet, to the top of Compass Mountain. That inaugural season, lift tickets were $5.50.The ski mountain was opened by a Chicago Advertising man named John Higgs, who had envisioned the mountain to one day expand onto Williams Peak, replete with hotels, lodging, and all the bells and whistles. However, Higgs was never able to see his dream come to fruition. By 1969 the company was in extreme financial trouble, and Higgs resigned as president.Running the company alongside Higgs were locals Jack Goodrich of Rifle as vice president, rancher Bob Perry of Carbondale as treasurer, and veterinarian and rancher Carter Jackson of Glenwood Springs as secretary. The three took hold of operations when Higgs left.But even before Higgs had a dream to bring skiing to the small town of Glenwood Springs, others had made unsuccessful attempts. Three tries failed prior to Sunlight’s opening in 1966.In the winter of 1941-42 Red Mountain on the west side of Glenwood Springs was open for skiing to those who dared. Remnants of the old lift can still be seen today on the hillside.”Holiday Hill” opened In 1947 by brothers Don and John Vanderhoof, owners of Van’s Sporting Goods in Glenwood Springs. The hill was situated approximately at the current site of Sunlight’s Showdown trail. With only the one run, skiers were pulled up the hill by two 1,200-foot tow ropes powered by the engine of a 1929 Buick Touring car. The rusted remnants of the car can still be seen from Showdown.Holiday Hill was shut down by the city of Glenwood Springs to allow for another ski area to be opened closer to town. That venture eventually failed as well.That’s when Higgs began purchasing the land where Sunlight exists today.In 1966 the ski area recorded around 15,000 skiers. That number almost doubled the following year and in spite of a couple of difficult years in the late 1960s, by the mid ’70s the ski area was hosting more than 38,000 skiers annually.For the first 13 years Sunlight was operated by part-time management and local volunteers who traded work for skiing privileges. Back then, it was not unusual to start the lifts for a single skier, according to reports.The saying “the more things change, the more they stay the same” has seemed to fit this old mountain well. One thing’s for sure, it’s still a great place to make some good turns.”It’s just awesome skiing,” Hartmann said.Contact John Gardner: 945-8515, ext. 16604jgardner@postindependent.comPost Independent, Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO

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