Sunlight shuts down uphill traffic as trails get muddy and amid new health department advisories
Babbish Gulch trails remain open for public use
Sunlight Mountain Resort has now closed the ski mountain to all activities, including uphill travel, due to deteriorating snow conditions and in accordance with public health concerns related to the COVID-19 outbreak.
The small ski area outside Glenwood Springs announced the closure in a Facebook post and press alert Monday morning.
Sunlight closed last week after Gov. Jared Polis ordered a temporary closure until mid-April of all ski resorts in the state amid growing concerns about the spread of the new coronavirus, especially in Colorado’s ski resort communities.
Sunlight decided to go ahead and close for the season, which was to end April 5 anyway but was still allowing uphill enthusiasts to continue to trek up the mountain under their own power, even if the lifts were closed.
“Conditions are thawing and lower sections are starting to become muddy,” Sunlight officials said in their Facebook post announcing the new restriction. The decision is also “in accordance to public health recommendations issued by the state and Garfield County.”
“We saw a few hundred uphillers over the weekend,” Sunlight Sales and Marketing Director Troy Hawks said in a followup email. “I didn’t witness any groups of more than 10 — people were maintaining the minimum ski-length distance apart while on the mountain, but of course the upper warming hut has limited capacity. The hut is also now closed.”
Sunlight maintenance crews have also now plowed out Grizzly Road, which they normally do soon after the lifts close so that staff can access the mountain to do their post-season work.
Trails in the adjacent in Babbish Gulch area do remain open to cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and hiking. However, users are advised to maintain state and county recommendations to travel in smaller groups and maintain “social distancing” precautions.
After the state’s ski resorts shut down March 15, many enthusiasts continued to access the terrain by using traction skins to get up the mountains, and then skiing down.
Some ski areas, including all of the Vail Resorts-owned mountains, eventually closed to uphill traffic also for fear of skiers accessing steeper terrain that was no longer being maintained for avalanche control.
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Out-of-town hunters descend in droves upon Rifle every year to navigate the rugged, Western Slope terrain as they try to bag their share of trophy elk.