Indy Pass reveals Sunlight as newest resort addition

Former World Cup ski racer Alice McKennis excited for her home resort’s future with independent co-op pass

John LaConte
Vail Daily
A pair of skiers make turns down a run at Sunlight Mountain on a chilly Friday afternoon in February of 2022.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

Alice “The Alligator” McKennis, of Minturn, was thrilled to hear that the place she grew up skiing is also the formerly unnamed ski area that joined the Indy Pass this month.

In early February, the Indy Pass announced that the 81-ski area co-op had signed its first Colorado resort, but it held off on releasing the name to the public.

McKennis, on Friday, learned that Sunlight Mountain in Glenwood Springs was the mystery ski area.

“I think it’s awesome,” she said. “How fun would it be to go on a trip and check out all these resorts?”

Alice McKennis goes airborne during a training session for the women's World Cup downhill in Cortina d'Ampezzo, northern Italy on Jan. 17, 2018.
Domenico Stinellis/AP

It’s quite an endorsement from someone who has visited many of the best resorts on the planet while traveling for a decade on the World Cup circuit.

McKennis is best known for winning the St. Anton World Cup downhill in Austria in 2013, but competed on the World Cup circuit from 2011 to 2020 and finished fifth at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics after also notching a World Cup downhill podium that season.

“I think these resorts like Sunlight are places that should be treasured,” she said. “They’re staying true to the roots of skiing, and they’re standing their own ground, which I think is incredible.”

A view of Sunlight Mountain Resort in February 2022.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

This season and next

The addition of Sunlight is effective for the remainder of the 2021-22 season for those who have already purchased their Indy Pass, and it will apply during the 2022-23 season as well.

Indy Pass founder Doug Fish said signing Sunlight is a huge win for Indy Pass holders.

“Colorado is North America’s ground zero for skiing and snowboarding, and now we have access to one of the most cherished indie mountains remaining in that great state,” Fish said.

The Indy Pass works like a co-op, with the small businesses sharing the profits.

“We take 85% of all the pass revenue, and we pay it out based on redemptions,” Fish said. “It’s really a marketing program. It’s designed to introduce people to new resorts that they probably haven’t been to, and it’s designed to give a collective voice of the oft-forgotten and overlooked little guys.”

The pass doesn’t allow unlimited access, giving guests only two days at each ski area, but it now has 82 ski areas to choose from with the addition of Sunlight.

Troy Hawks with Sunlight said the staff is excited for Indy Pass skiers and snowboarders to “enjoy a two-day taste test” of the lesser known ski area in the White River National Forest, in operation since 1966.

“We’re confident they will enjoy spreading out on our 730 acres served up the old school Rocky Mountain way,” Hawks said.

The Western Winter Games for Special Olympics Colorado was hosted by Sunlight Mountain on Friday and Saturday.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

Alligator Alleys

McKennis now works for Ski & Snowboard Club Vail, where she coaches young ski racers.

On Feb. 26-27, McKennis’ schedule is highlighted by the race she says she’s most excited for this season, the Sunlight Mountain event.

Sunlight recently named a section of runs after McKennis, but she has yet to ski them due to injury and the pandemic-restricted ski racing schedules of recent years.

She said she can’t wait to show her athletes “Alligator Alleys,” a steep section of double black diamond runs that now use a namesake “The Alligator” McKennis has enjoyed since her days of skiing Sunlight as a child.

Sunlight Mountain’s trail map. Alligator Alleys is named after Alice McKennis, who competed on the World Cup circuit for 10 years as a ski racer and went by the nickname “The Alligator.”
Courtesy image

McKennis said she attributes much of her skills in downhill to learning at Sunlight, which contains 2,010 vertical feet on 730 acres of skiable terrain. The mountain boasts one of Colorado’s steepest lift-served runs, The Heathen, which has a 52 degree pitch. It’s also known for having access to a wide variety of different terrain options.

“I think skiing that type of challenging terrain – trees, huge moguls, and then the fun and fast groomers, I really think that’s one of the things that helped develop me as a skier and especially a young skier, to be thrown into an environment where you had to adapt to all different types of terrain,” McKennis said. “It’s a great mountain to explore by yourself as a young kid because you know all trails lead to the same spot, and I think that was really amazing as a kid, knowing I could go on my own, go take runs by myself, and my dad and my sister trusted that I could make it back to the chairlift.”

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