A few weeks ago, Snowmageddon hit Colorado. Within two days, several feet of snow fell rapidly, and effectively shut down travel between the front range and the western slope.
As for Chad and I, our plans to head to Denver for the weekend were demolished, with weather advisory warnings and local alerts that the mountain passes would be near-impossible to use.
So, there went that.
In an attempt to be fast-thinking, I asked Chad if we should use our home-stay to do something brand new and exciting and outside our normal. With bright eyes and zero expectations, I posed the question. “Should we maybe go skiing?”
Date Day at Sunlight Mountain Resort
In what seemed like a whirlwind, we were all set for our Saturday trip to the slopes. Our area is blessed with many different skiing options—some of the best in the world, I’ve been told—between Aspen and Snowmass and Vail not too far away. We opted for the local, family-owned resort with the most affordable lift ticket prices, Sunlight Mountain Resort.
We decided to make this our Date Day (our first one in several months, to be honest), and go all out: we’d have lunch at the resort, followed by drinks at a brewery and take-home pizza after.
And, to be honest, it was the best.
Our Previous Experiences
I feel like this is important to note: Chad and I have never been skiing together. As Coloradans, especially those growing up and currently living in two ski town paradises, this is pretty unheard of.
In fact, it’s been about 10 years since either of us really went out on the mountain. (I went with a roommate for a few hours during my freshman year of college, but I don’t really count it because I spent most of the time trying to teach her how to stand steady on her board.)
Growing up, though, I spent nearly every single winter Saturday at Crested Butte Mountain Resort in private snowboarding lessons, from second grade through fifth. I was pretty good. In sixth grade, I gave it all up so that I could dedicate my time and energy and my parent’s resources to basketball—a decision that lasted throughout high school.
Chad had gone skiing eight-ish times, and caught on pretty quickly. Our middle school had a program where we could go to CB for free a few times as a school-wide event, which is a pretty damn cool program. According to Chad, that was his last time on the mountain. After all, it’s a super expensive hobby—up until this point, Chad and I couldn’t justify spending our spare cash on shredding the gnar.
Until now, I guess.
Because it’d been so long since we hit the slopes, Chad and I had to go through the same process as most beginners: renting gear. Here are the details:
First, we bought our one-day lift tickets online. Each ticket was $68.
- Note: Sunlight has a lot of options, including weekday passes ($58) and season passes and uphill passes ($10) and 3 or 5-day passes, which are easily customized to your needs.
Second, we rented our gear online from Brian’s Bench, who we found to be the most affordable option.
- Our totals were $32 for Chad’s ski gear (skis, boots, poles, and a helmet) and $34 for my snowboard gear (board, boots, helmet), though prices for each start at $24. We were able to schedule a time to pick up and drop off, and went for a single day option.
It was super straight forward and easy: we headed to Brian’s Bench right at 8 a.m., tried on our boots and helmets and Brian made a few adjustments (a goofy set of bindings for me), and we were able to load our car up and head for the mountain. Afterwards, we returned our gear at 5 p.m. and simply dropped it off to Brian. Easy peasy.
On the Slopes
Once we arrived at Sunlight, we had the best time. We got our lift tickets, zip tied them to our jackets, and were able to get on the first lift with no line at all (I might’ve preferred a little bit of a wait, since I was feeling nervous).
Sunlight is extremely beginner-friendly, and only has three lifts. All of the runs end in the same place, which is also very handy and ensures that you can’t get lost or separated for long. The three lifts, translated from Spanish to “one, two, and three” are called Primo (going all the way up to the top of the mountain), Segundo (going to the western-most runs), and Tercero (the easiest).
We spent a good chunk of time on Tercero, re-learning our turns in the “teaching area.” We quickly gained our confidence, and gradually explored both of the other lifts, going down greens and a few blues. My favorite run was “Ute,” which ran from top to bottom. We had this area almost entirely to ourselves, which was amazing.
Overall, Chad and I had several amazing runs throughout the day. We had a lunch break on-site but otherwise were busy riding from 9 a.m. to about 3:15-ish. It was a full blue-bird day of carving up the slope. It couldn’t have been any better.
Back on the Board
I loved being back on a board—it truly felt like riding a bike. Everything came back to me through muscle memory, and it was thrilling to discover that I knew what I was doing.
My biggest fear is and always has been getting off the lift. As a goofy (right-footed) snowboarder, I’ve always had issues with maintaining my balance with one foot out, even back in the day when I was a good snowboarder. However, I’m super happy to say that I only fell one time. That was a major accomplishment for me, and it boosted my confidence completely.
Snowboarding was one of my first loves, and it felt so right and almost emotional to be reunited.
In true Date Day form, Chad and I continued the fun after skiing. Once we returned our gear to Brian’s Bench, we walked around the block to Casey Brewing and Blending Taproom. It was perfect: comfy chairs, sour beer, and Chad.
Later, we ordered a pizza from Russo’s, and brought it home with us. We watched a movie and let ourselves fall asleep around 9 p.m., completely satisfied after a rewarding day.
In the Future
After our perfect day at Sunlight, Chad and I walked away with a giant resolution: there’s no way we’ll let 10 years pass again. We’ll be back on the mountain.
In order to keep our promise, we’ve resolved to purchase gear in order to minimize our costs. In the time since our Date Day, we’ve managed to utilize the local Facebook Marketplace, and so far have bought skis ($40) and a snowboard ($60) each with bindings, snowboard boots ($20), and goggles ($16). We’re still on the lookout for helmets, poles, and boots for Chad, so keep your fingers crossed on our budget-seeking adventures.
Overall, 10/10 rating for this day. We’ve been converted into skiers, Sunlight fans, and blue bird hopefuls. Cheers to more sunshine on the slopes to come.
Ski Resort: Sunlight Mountain Resort, sunlightmtn.com
Rentals: Brian’s Bench, briansbenchskis.com
Resort Parking: Free
Trail Map: Available online
Note: Sunlight also offers uphill passes; you can buy a $10 ticket or $50 season pass to skin ski up the mountain.