Sunlight’s local visits down, traveler numbers up for season
A less-than-average snow year kept local visitor numbers down at Sunlight Mountain Resort last winter. But day trippers and destination travelers helped to buoy the ski resort’s overall visitation numbers for the year, according to Sunlight officials.
Total skier and snowboarder visits for the 2016-17 season were down 4 percent. That’s probably attributable to lower snow totals, which were down 25 percent from the yearly average, said Troy Hawks, marketing and sales director for Sunlight.
Although season pass sales were up slightly over the previous year, by about 1 percent, Hawks said actual visits from those pass holders were down 15 percent. However, sales through Sunlight’s Ski, Swim and Stay package were up 28 percent for the season.
In May, the unique package that is offered in partnership with seven Glenwood Springs lodges and the Glenwood Hot Springs was named as the Best Family Campaign by the National Ski Areas Association. Participating lodges include the Hot Springs Lodge, Hotel Glenwood Springs, Cedar Lodge, Hotel Denver, Glenwood Canyon Resort, and two lodges located adjacent to the ski resort, the Brettelberg Condos and the Sunlight Lodge Bed & Breakfast.
Meanwhile, summer activities at Sunlight are in full swing.
Sunlight contracts with Glenwood Adventure Co. for horseback tours on the mountain and up Babbish Gulch, where the cross country ski trails are located in the winter. The on-mountain service roads and trails are also open to the public for mountain biking and hiking.
“We also have a wedding nearly every weekend, so that business is up about (threefold) what we did last year,” Hawks said, noting that Sunlight was without a wedding coordinator for a few seasons. “But we’re building that business back up.”
Weddings currently represent the largest summer revenue generator for Sunlight.
The upcoming Grand Avenue bridge closure and detour has also proven to be a business generator for the Sunlight Ski and Bike shop, located in downtown Glenwood Springs, Hawks said. Several larger employers, including Valley View Hospital, have leased fleets of electric bikes to help their employees get around town and avoid driving during the detour.
The Colorado Department of Transportation is striving to reduce current traffic volumes by about 35 percent during the detour period, and is encouraging biking, taking the bus and car pooling as much as possible. The city of Glenwood Springs has also relaxed its restrictions on e-bikes using city bike paths during the detour.
Sunlight is currently investigating a variety of ski season improvements, as well as other summertime offerings, and has launched an online survey to help inform the process.
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Doug Stenclik and Randy Young had a feeling that ski touring — everything from uphilling at ski resorts to more adventuresome trips to the backcountry — would surge in popularity, so in 2011 they took a chance and opened a shop dedicated to the niche sport. It paid off and they have continued to grow. This winter they teamed with Aspen Expeditions to take over retail operations at the base of Aspen Highlands.