Western Garfield County bus makes ski slopes more accessible
sunlight winter sports bus program pickup and drop locations and time:
Rifle: East lot Wal-Mart, 8 a.m./5:05 p.m.
Silt: Tim’s Tools, 8:15 a.m./4:50 p.m.
New Castle: Elk Creek Elementary, 8:30 a.m./4:40 p.m.
It’s wintertime, and the coming storms will add excitement to these early days of ski and snowboarding season. But for many western Garfield County families, it can be unaffordable to even get to the nearest ski mountain.
For more than 20 years, though, Rifle Recreation and Sunlight Mountain Resort have offered local youth the chance to get up to the mountain that’s practically in their own backyard.
The Sunlight Winter Sports Bus program provides hundreds of youth throughout the western valley the opportunity for affordable transportation to and from Sunlight Mountain Resort. With the first chair lifts up and running, today marks the first pickups for the buses.
Pickups are set in Rifle, Silt and New Castle in the morning, with returns in the evening to the same locations. Last year, the bus had 167 different riders, many with multiple rides, for a total of 694 participant trips, according to a Rifle Recreation press release. Round trips are available for $5 and season passes for $20.
“Skiing can be tough for some folks, so by providing transport we are unlocking winter sports access for local youth,” said James Vaughan with Rifle Recreation. “It gets the community to take advantage of something right in their backyard.”
He said the program continues to receive a lot of positive feedback from Rifle and neighboring communities.
“I’ve been driving the ski bus for 20 years,” Lynn McConnell said in a video Rifle Parks and Recreation posted to Facebook last spring. “We’ve had people ride the bus some as long as 17 years.”
The video features interviews with various western Garfield County families and youth who have enjoyed the program for years.
“It’s just really cool how the community put this together for people who want to ride,” said student Sam Orgill.
“Not only do we save money but a lot of our younger riders are able to get up to Sunlight more,” said instructor Justin Meagher with Coal Ridge High School Ski Club.
For the upcoming ski season, the bus will operate for 35 days, from Dec. 23 through March 31; as well as eight days during winter break, six days during spring break, and nine Re-2 School District weekend Fridays from Jan. 12 to March 9. Moreover, one of the Friday trips goes to Powderhorn Mountain Resort.
“It’s a great program,” said Sunlight Marketing and Sales Director Troy Hawks. “It puts a lot of kids on the slopes that might not have a chance otherwise. It’s a great opportunity for young kids in the community to get up to the mountain.”