Sunlight Mountain Resort Is Open: Here's What's New in 2016

Depending on how you look at things, we either got a lovely extended fall or were robbed of primo skiing due to unseasonably warm weather. If your thinking falls into the latter camp, you'll be glad to know that resorts are finally opening – and offering more than ever.

In this year's edition of Edge, our snow-activities guide to resorts in Colorado, we've told you about what’s new at every major ski area in the state, must-do experiences and insider tips. We’ve also done our own tireless research all over the state and reached out to some experts for suggestions on how to make the most of it all, whether you’re looking to drop some coin for something special or just trying to get by as a dirtbag ski bum like the rest of us. For this post, we're focusing on Sunlight Mountain Resort, which opens today, December 9.

What’s new: The “no hassles, no hype” ski area near Glenwood Springs is marking its fiftieth-anniversary season, and nods to its history — including photos and artifacts dating back to 1966 — will adorn the lodge. Meier Skis built limited-edition anniversary skis and snowboards for the occasion, featuring graphics by local artist Gina Sheldrake, and the resort partnered with Glenwood Canyon Brewing Company on a special fiftieth-anniversary Bavarian-style helles lager to serve at the base-area bar. Be there on opening day to help celebrate with free doughnuts from Glenwood’s Sweet ColoraDough.

Signature experience: The return of the ski train to Winter Park is getting a lot of hype this season, but the Polar Express-obsessed also love to ride the rails from Denver’s Union Station to Glenwood Springs. Book a stay at the Hotel Denver and eat at chef Mark Fischer’s excellent farm-to-table restaurant the Pullman, both just steps from Glenwood’s train station, then catch the free shuttle to Sunlight when you’re ready to hit the slopes. Afterward, nothing pairs better with a day in the snow than a soak in the hot springs, and the area now boasts four excellent options: the famed Glenwood Hot Springs and the new Iron Mountain Hot Springs, which opened in 2015, plus Avalanche Ranch hot springs in nearby Redstone and Penny Hot Springs in Carbondale. Sunlight Mountain spokesman Troy Hawks suggests springing for the new $199 Slope & Soak 4-Pack, which includes four full-day lift tickets at Sunlight and four passes to Iron Mountain. Split four ways, the deal works out to about $50 per person.

Insider tips: “Part of Sunlight’s long-kept secret is that it has the same skiable acreage and the same snow as Aspen Mountain, but only a fraction of the skiers,” Hawks says. “In other words, the powder here lasts for days, not hours. Tell only your best friends.”

Splurge: “Starting at just $120 per person, Sunlight’s snowmobile tours are among the best in the state,” Hawks suggests. The one-hour guided Family Tour makes a sixteen-mile loop, with departures at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Upgrade to the $185 Adventure Ride for a two-and-a-half-hour trip departing at 9 a.m. or noon, with views of Mount Sopris, the West Elk Mountains and the Flat Tops Wilderness Area, plus a freeriding stop to let more advanced riders cut loose on the sleds.

Ski bum tips: At $63 for a full-price adult lift ticket, Sunlight is about as affordable as it gets in Colorado. To save even more, buy multi-day tickets in advance online or check out the Ski/Swim/Stay packages: The resort has partnered with eight major hotels in Glenwood Springs to offer deals starting at $99, and those packages include free lift tickets for kids twelve and under.

Drink local: Back in town, go for an authentic Old West experience by ordering a shot of whiskey at Doc Holliday’s Tavern before taking in a show at the Glenwood Vaudeville Revue, or look for the party at Glenwood Canyon Brewing Co. or Roaring Fork Beer Co. Hawks also recommends making the fifteen-minute drive to Carbondale to check out the new Marble Distilling Company, already cleaning up in its first year with gold-medal awards from the 2016 Denver International Spirits Competition and 2016 San Francisco World Spirits Competitions. Since you probably won’t be in any shape to make the drive back after the latter, book one of the five luxury rooms at the attached Distillery Inn, which opened in 2015.
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Colin Bane
Contact: Colin Bane