Sunlight’s open and ready for more snow |

Sunlight’s open and ready for more snow

Two-year-old New Castle resident Dax Martinez, hit the slopes at Sunlight Mountain's opening day on Friday.
Chelsea Self |

Skiers and snowboarders had the mountain mostly to themselves Friday when Sunlight Mountain Resort opened in earnest for the season.

Much like the first day of school, people could be heard shouting at friends they hadn’t seen since last season. But the resort was far from crowded.

Sunlight started with a soft open the previous Friday through Sunday but then closed during the week for some final touches.

Snowpack was at 18 inches near the top of the mountain and 16 inches toward the bottom. The weather warmed up to around 40 degrees in the afternoon.

Early snows in November put the resort in good shape, said Troy Hawks, Sunlight’s marketing and sales director. But the resort opened up last year around Thanksgiving with about the same amount of snow, and when the weather didn’t cooperate, Sunlight had to shut back down, he said.

One more good snow should put the resort on a good track, said Hawks. And he might get his wish immediately.

The National Weather Service had a winter weather advisory going into effect that evening and lasting 24 hours. The forecast showed chances of snow up to 80 percent Friday night and 90 percent chance Saturday.

Chances of snow continue through Monday, according to NWS.

Arleigh Norton, a Colorado Mountain College student snowboarding with a group of friends, said the snow was in early-season condition and patchy in places.

“The slopes are a little crunchy, a little bumpy, but this is the mountain we always come to because it’s so fun,” said Shay Sifuentes, also a CMC student.

“But we’re hopeful because the forecast says it will snow all night,” said Emily Doolittle.

Most of the trails that were open were green runs (beginner trails) and blue runs (intermediate trails), with only a couple of black diamonds (expert trails), Doolittle said.

Hawks reported that two of Sunlight’s three lifts are open, and about 40 percent of the mountain’s 680 acres were accessible. No word yet on when the third lift, Segundo, will open up.

Coal Ridge High School students Rebecca Jolley and Charlotte Olejniczak came to the mountain as part of their high school’s ski club. Both of them have been skiing Sunlight since they could barely walk.

They too said the mountain was in early-season shape. “But we haven’t crashed yet,” Jolley said.

“Sunlight is a really family-oriented mountain where we know everyone,” she said.

The big resorts are fun for vacations, but it’s good to have a solid home base mountain, said Olejniczak.

And Sunlight is a bit of a secret, so you don’t have to deal with lift lines, she said.

Jolley said her favorite thing at the mountain is “bombing down Ute,” the longest run on the mountain. Olejniczak prefers an expert tree run.

Coal Ridge High’s ski club takes them to many different mountains, but Sunlight is their home base, they said.

Two years ago the resort made enough of an impression on Hannes Delport’s family, who live in South Africa, to come back for an extended vacation.

They were first introduced to Sunlight’s slopes during a six-day vacation, but this time they’re dedicating about four weeks to skiing at the resort.

And Aurelia Cure, from Ray in eastern Colorado, made the long trip for the opening of the season, having lived in the area while she was a student at CMC and having taught her four kids how to ski at Sunlight.

The mountain could use some snow, she said, but it’s a great family-oriented place and the price is right.

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