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Packed or powder?

Donna Gray
Post Independent Staff
Post Independent Photo/Kara K. Pearson
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Under a brilliant blue Colorado sky Friday morning, Steve Casey of Glenwood Springs stepped aboard the chair lift to be the first skier of the season at Sunlight Mountain Resort.

“I was at the lift at 7:55 a.m.,” he said. The ride “was delightful. It was a great start” to the season. “History was made; I never skied on opening day before.”

Grooming machines worked up and down the mountain all week to tame over four feet of snow that fell on the ski area since Thanksgiving. But there was also enough untouched snow on the mountain to satisfy the most die-hard powder hound.

Sunlight opened with 90 percent of its runs skiable and 37 inches on top, 33 inches at midway.

Two storms last week, one on Thursday and Friday and a second, larger storm on Sunday, dumped about 50 inches of snow on the mountain 10 miles south of Glenwood Springs.

For Sunlight general manager Tom Jankovsky, Friday was historic, if not epic.

“It’s probably, for quantity and depth, the best opening day we’ve had since 1985,” he said. “We’ve had earlier openings, usually with only 18 to 20 inches at the top.”

In fact, Friday’s snow depth was what he expects in January.

Conditions leading up to Friday were typical for this time of year at Sunlight. As soon as the temperatures allowed, snowmaking machines worked diligently to put snow at the base and midway where the mountain was decidedly brown ” that is until the back-to-back snow storms dumped their white gold on the slopes.

Over 300 skiers, some of whom played hooky from school to get in on opening day, had a blast.

For Joan Troth, of Glenwood Springs, who called it a day about 2 p.m., skiing “was excellent. I’m exhausted. We got into some powder on Sunburst and it was almost too much.”

Joe Sims, newly appointed director of the education center at Sunlight, had a light day with only a few ski lessons. He’s been a ski instructor at Sunlight for nine years and a supervisor for eight.

Sims replaced John Turkel, who moved to Virginia with wife Turi Nevin-Turkel, who was marketing director for the ski area. Sheila Maurer has replaced Nevin-Turkel.

Sims brings a new approach to ski lessons at Sunlight. This year he will focus on first timers with a new technique that will have them parallel skiing in one day.

“I’m pushing (to have them go) direct to parallel that they’ll learn their first day on skis,” he said.

The good old wedge, or snowplow, will stay in service, however. First-time skiers will learn it “as an emergency brake,” not a full-time beginner technique.

“It’s a new approach, and a lot of ski areas are already doing it,” Sims said. “I’ve seen it work.”

Learners will continue to use the short shaped skis introduced a couple years ago, he added.

By midafternoon the crowds, if they could be called that on a weekday at the ski area, had thinned out. Staff were in an ebullient mood as all systems, with the exception of some minor computer glitches in the lodge, worked smoothly.

Contact Donna Gray: 945-8515, ext. 510

dgray@postindependent.com


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