Sunlight Mountain Inn owners offer haven from modern world
SUNLIGHT MOUNTAIN RESORT – At the end of a snowpacked drive up Four Mile Road the evening begins to warm inside the Sunlight Mountain Inn.Outside, the inn is nestled in a corner of wilderness reminiscent of another era before high-speed quad ski lifts and snowboarding.Not much has changed at the inn since it was built 40 years ago. And that’s just the way innkeepers Pierre and Gretchenn DuBois like it – quiet and serene with scattered snowstorms.”We don’t even have cable television up here,” Gretchenn said.The inn does have satellite television but there are only two TV sets in the entire lodge: one in the bar, and another in the TV room, of course. But there are none in any of the 20 guest rooms, no Wi-Fi Internet access, and cell phone reception is scarce.”The majority of people really enjoy the place without the distraction from the outside world,” Pierre said.But there have been a few that wanted to leave after a few dropped calls.House with a history
It may not be perfect for everybody, but it was the slower-paced life that attracted the DuBoises to the inn 10 years ago.”This is our house,” Pierre said. “That’s how we treat our guest, it’s like we are saying, ‘Welcome to our house.'”That’s no exaggeration.The DuBoises live in part of the building that was the original ranch home built by Joseph Perko in 1907. Perko homesteaded the land around the same time. It was probably a good home then, and it’s still a great place to live, if you ask the DuBoises.The couple’s daughter, Jolie, a freshman at Glenwood Springs High School, sits behind a desk in the office. She pitches in around the place to raise money for cheerleading; it’s her first year on the squad.She loves living at the mountain.”Living at Sunlight is the best thing,” Jolie said.It’s one thing to have a ski mountain as your backyard, but it’s another equally exciting thing to have people from all over the world come to your house for vacation.”I get to meet a lot of people from other places that stay here,” Jolie said.The inn has seen a few owners and innkeepers through the years as well.”One day I couldn’t spell innkeeper and the next day I was one,” Pierre joked.Because the inn also is their home, for the family, work is more like keeping up on daily chores. When they say it’s a lifestyle, not a career, they aren’t joking.
“There are always trials with everything you do,” Pierre said. “But the good things about this place always outweigh the bad.”The inn is warm and inviting across the threshold from today’s luxuries. It’s very much the same as when Hank Williams, of the Williams electric shaver family, built the lodge. Williams once held the majority ownership in the resort and also was involved with the construction of the inn but died six months after the inn was completed, according to Gretchenn.Thanks to Williams, the DuBoises have been able to live a life of dreams for more than a decade, working at home and living at the base of Sunlight Mountain.”It made sense to work and play here,” Gretchenn said. “(Jolie) was little and I didn’t want to leave her for work. I would have had to find a job where I’d work 50 hours a week and be away from home.”That lifestyle had no appeal to Gretchenn. Being in the food service trade for most of her career and having a degree in urban business, she came up with another idea where she could stay at home with Jolie, and work.”My degree has nothing to do with running a restaurant,” Gretchenn admitted. “But we picked this place because of the year-round opportunity. People stay here in the summer and in the winter.” No strangers to Glenwood Springs and Sunlight, the two knew people in the area for a number of years. They searched for a place that fit them and the inn wasn’t even up for sale, but they contacted a local real estate agent, Donna Fell, in the early days of 1997, and the rest just fell into place.”We know the area and the people really well. I remember the Hot Springs Pool when it had an island in the middle with water shooting up from it,” said the 76-year-old Pierre.Home for the holidaysOne snowy day, Pierre greets guests as they return from a day on the mountain. Snow covers the ground and there are but a few vehicles lined up across from the solid, over-sized wooden door separating the yesterday feel of the interior from the outside world of today. A couple of kids on Christmas break climb a short embankment with a sled.Inside, a fire welcomes guests like a warm hug as they enter. Gretchenn prepares the evening dinner in her kitchen. She’s also the head cook, and it’s their busy time of year. All 20 rooms are booked for New Year’s Eve.”This is the time when everyone wants to be here,” Gretchenn said.
Just like going home for the holidays.”It’s amazing how many people who come here have an attachment to the place from years ago,” Pierre said. “People just come out of everywhere with a connection.”Today, New Year’s Eve, the DuBoises will be setting the table with clean forks and knives in preparation for the annual New Year’s Eve celebration. The celebration has been a tradition for them since they took over in 1997.”We just did it because we wanted to have an event here for the guests,” Gretchenn said. “We didn’t want them driving up and down the road to go anywhere for New Year’s.”In the past, themes like “James Bond” or “Rockabilly” gave guests an evening to remember. This year, the theme is “the ’70s” complete with disco ball and songs from the Bee Gees. Their son, Andre, will DJ the event.However, the New Year brings forth an uncertain future for the couple with the pending sale of Sunlight Mountain Resort to Florida-based Exquisite Development. Preliminary plans for the future of the resort showed the inn as not being included in the redevelopment. Replaced with something bigger and better. No doubt there will be a TV set in every room.”These kinds of places don’t exist anymore,” Pierre said. “This place may not either in a couple of years.”But they’re open now, and it’s business as usual at the Sunlight Mountain Inn at the far end of Four Mile Creek. And the DuBoises are squeezing every last bit of joy from the place.”We hope that some of the history will be remembered,” Gretchenn said. “But we’ll be here for a while.”And the warm fire still burns, welcoming guests in from the cold.Contact John Gardner: firstname.lastname@example.orgPost Independent, Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO
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Visual Journalist Chelsea Self can be reached at 970-384-9108 or email@example.com