Weather puts a damper on spring break at Sunlight |

Weather puts a damper on spring break at Sunlight

Jeremy Heiman
Special to the Post Independent
Post Independent Photo/Kelley Cox

Spring break at Sunlight Mountain Resort has been, in a word, weird.

After baking through three weeks of dry, warm, sunny days, Sunlight was ambushed by rain and lightning Tuesday night and Wednesday. The top of the mountain received some measurable snowfall ” one-half inch ” overnight Tuesday, but rain fell at the base of the area.

Due to a diminishing snowpack, Sunlight officials have promised to announce today whether they will close the resort early. But even if the decision is made to close early, Spring Thing, the resort’s annual spring festival, will be held this Saturday, March 27.

In the meantime, the resort’s snow cover is tattered and slushy, but still holding out. And, most important, visitors who made reservations earlier in the winter to ski at Sunlight this month are having a great time, despite all kinds of weather.

Wednesday started sunny, but around 11:30 a.m., dark clouds began to make good on their threat. After a few tentative raindrops, thunder rolled across the mountain, followed by a thrashing rainstorm mixed with hail.

Lift crews were ordered to stop loading passengers as bolts of lightning threatened riders on the chairs. Skiers and boarders already on the lift worried their way to the top, leapt off the chairs and scattered, heading for lower ground.

Those near the bottom headed inside, dripping wet, to the shelter of the day lodge.

“I’d still be out there skiing if the lifts hadn’t stopped,” said Chas Maloney, as he looked out the window at the falling rain and hail. Maloney, 13, of Wichita, Kan., was learning to snowboard Wednesday, after two days on skis. He’s visiting with his parents, Marie and Rob Maloney, and his brothers, Gavin, 11, and Shane, 8.

“We’re having a great time, anyway,” Marie Maloney said. “They don’t care about the conditions. They’re skiing and they’re having a good time.”

Gesturing toward Shane, she continued, “This one’s covered with mud. He keeps finding all the mud puddles and jumping in.”

Gavin, however, had the scariest experience. When the lightning started, he stepped out of his snowboard bindings, lost his grip on his board, and watched it hurtle down the hill without him. Someone caught it near the bottom of the slope, he said, and no harm was done.

Matt Gausel, 11, of Colorado Springs, thinks Sunlight Mountain Resort should stay open. He was visiting with his stepdad, Jim Wicker.

“I don’t think they should close it,” Gausel said. “It’s not bad enough weather conditions to close it.”

“We’re enjoying ourselves, so far,” Wicker said. “The snow’s a little slushy, but it’s Matt’s first time, and he’s having a good time.”

Wicker and his wife brought Matt and his sister to Glenwood Springs on the advice of friends, he said. The girls were spending the day at the Hot Springs Pool while Matt and Jim skied.

“We heard a lot of good things about Glenwood Springs. We’d never been here before,” Wicker said. “The kids are on spring break, so we decided to come.”

Despite the patches of grass showing through the snowpack, business during the month of March has been good.

“Spring break business started coming in March 14,” said Caren Koning, Sunlight’s communications manager. “That was our biggest week for out-of-town business.”

At that time, the snowpack was still in very good condition after a snowy February.

Jeremy Wussow, Sunlight’s special events coordinator and terrain park manager, said the resort hosted a good number of group trips from all over the country during spring break. One church group filled four charter buses, he said.

Both Koning and Wussow have fond memories of the close of the season last year, when it snowed 12 inches on the last day.

“This is a little disappointing, but when you have a month of 60-degree weather, the snow can’t compete,” Koning said.

Wussow is still optimistic.

“We’re holding our breath and hoping for that foot of snow for closing day again,” he said.

Contact Jeremy Heiman: 945-8515, ext. 534

Sunlight Mountain Resort’s annual one-day spring festival, Spring Thing, will take place this Saturday, March 27, at the ski area. Spring Thing is sponsored by Bighorn Toyota.

Spring Thing will feature competitive events: a mountain bike downhill race, a cardboard box derby, and snowboard competitions. Prizes are offered in each event.

Registration begins at 8:30 a.m. and ends one-half hour before each event.

The day wraps up with live music on the deck.

Spring Thing schedule:

10 a.m. Downhill Mountain Bike Race (helmet required)

1 p.m. Cardboard Box Derby

2 p.m. Diversion Snowboard Competition

2:30 p.m. Live music begins, with Finless Brown

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