Destination travelers tend to pass by Sunlight Mountain Resort on the way to the much more famous Aspen Mountain. A stop at the down-home ski area, however, can offer a much different experience than tony Aspen.
For starters, more skiers are likely riding on Aspen’s gondola at any one moment than the number of skiers at Sunlight’s entire ski area. Of course, Sunlight’s lifts are far from state-of-the-art, but on a bluebird day, a relaxing slower ride up the mountain seems to fit the vibe just fine.
Lift-ticket prices are very reasonable compared to other Colorado ski areas. The full-day adult rate during the 2014-15 season is $60. Children ages 6-12 can ski for $45 and children under 6 are free. Discounted tickets are generally available through Liftopia.
Sunlight Mountain Resort is the home mountain for Glenwood Springs, Colo., located 12 miles north of the ski area. Glenwood Springs takes its name from the famous hot springs located near the downtown area. The town also has a few historic hotels such as the Hotel Colorado that offers a lodging package including skiing and the hot springs.
Sunlight provides an excellent view of Mount Sopris, a majestic inactive volcano that reaches an elevation close to 13,000 feet. Rising about 6,400 feet from the Roaring Fork Valley floor, the mountain dominates the horizon.
For a relatively small ski area, Sunlight has a healthy amount of legitimate expert terrain. Off its East Ridge, the layout has numerous double-black chutes such as Rapid Transit and Perry’s Plunge. At a pitch of 52 degrees, The Heathen is considered to be the area’s steepest run and one of the steepest in the entire state.
Shoot the Ute
Ute is a 2.5-mile green run following the western boundary of the ski area. The rolling nature of the trail and lack of crowds allow advanced skiers to “shoot the Ute” for a traditional non-stop, high-speed run at the end of day.
The 10-hour Defiance Challenge is held annually to benefit the Sunlight Ski Patrol and the family of a fallen National Ski Patrol member. Up to 50 teams of two make laps on Sunlight’s expert terrain. In 2015, the fourth-annual event is scheduled for March 6.