I'm back in Colorado for the next 11 days so this weekend a couple areas are on the docket that virtually no one mentions in the online ski world. If you head west on I-70 from Denver, you'll speed right past or be within a short drive of, in order: Loveland, Winter Park/Mary Jane, Keystone, A-Basin, Breckenridge, Copper, Cooper, Vail, Beaver Creek, and the Aspen Group. All but Loveland and Cooper are tied into the two mega passes. Even if I had an Epic or Ikon Pass, I'm not sure I'd want to be at any of those major ski areas over a busy holiday weekend.
You can see that Sunlight is just south of Glenwood Springs/24 miles from Snowmass as the crow flies. Leaving Denver at 5 am, I got there in a little more than three hours:
Opened in 1966, it's an unpretentious, old-school ski area frequented exclusively by locals -- pretty much everyone there would look right at home at Plattekill:
How old-school? When was the last time you saw some of these?
From the map, it doesn't look like much compared to the monster ski areas to the east, but it covers 2,000 verts/680 skiable acres and has a surprising amount of variety, including a lot of tree skiing in the aspen groves, some steep chutes, and on the lower looker's left a good-sized sector of double-black terrain that's going to be served next year with the ski area's first new lift in decades: the East Ridge expansion. I'd bet a doughnut that it won't be a high-speed chair, which they don't really need.
The two main chairs are Riblets from the late 60s/early 70s. The lifties patiently remind every person or couple boarding the chair "watch out for the center pole."
Overnight, Sunlight picked up 4-6 inches so the first three hours were spent tracking through the bootcuff-deep new snow. Here I am in my first in-action pic on a ski-area's social-media feed: only took 20 seasons of skiing for someone to notice me!
Sorry for my sometimes blurry pix, had to zoom in for a few of them, and the high clouds never completely dissipated until around 2 pm. Still, a fun day for all.
There's almost always a posse of telegirlz at western ski areas and I caught up to three of them on one run:
By early afternoon, most of the obvious new snow had been tracked up but there was plenty of soft chop that was fun to play in:
Even though the parking lots were full, density was not an issue -- here's a lonely patroller on the runout back to the main lifts:
They use old snowboards for trail signs:
Heading into the aspens for additional untracked mid-afternoon:
I shared a chair with the only other skier on the hill with Kästle skis. Turns out that a while back she lived a couple years in Lake Placid, was well acquainted with the good/bad/ugly of skiing in the northeast, and preferred Whiteface and Jay.
Food and beverage is only at the bustling base area:
... and this trailer at the summit:
On the way back to the car, I saw that someone brought out the longboards:
In short: a fun off-the-beaten-path area (only 15 minutes from I-70) and a great place to avoid the holiday hordes. So far this season, I'm three for three in Colorado for fresh snow. There's nothing in the forecast for the next couple days but I'm hoping for good views at my next stop.
We get three free days there on our pass as well as powderhorn, copper, monarch, eldora, Loveland and cooper. I’m hoping to do a full loop next season. Sunlight looks awesome, I hear there’s really good tree skiing.
Awesome find! I'm in the preliminary process of creating lists of Magic-like mountains in the West to visit in the coming years. This place, along with Cooper, are now on my Colorado list. Have a blast this week!
That place is great - I hit it one day on a trip in 2017 on my way out of Aspen. Powder day, maybe 20 people there total. It was part of the Colorado Gems Card. It’s in a trip report I did here as well from that trip.
Thanks alot for the TR. I'll be headed to CO probably in March. My son lives in Boulder. My plan is to take advantage of the Freedom Pass mountains in CO. I figured I'd ski two days at Purgatory, and a day each at two of the other three, Hesperus, Cooper, and Sunlight.
I used to take advantage of the Gems card; however, the offer these days isn't very compelling: you pay $30 for the card and get two 2-for-1s or two 30% off a lift ticket or one of each. I'm hoping that the Gems ski areas will join the Indy Pass next year; that would be more attractive for me.