After a 10 year break from winter sports, it took a near-miracle to get me back on a snowboard. It was a combination of circumstance: last-minute travel cancellations, affordability, and sheer curiosity to check out our local ski area, Sunlight Mountain Resort.
Update: this media visit with Sunlight in 2020 inspired a new passion of snowboarding! We’ve gotten season passes ever since.
We went from a 10-year hiatus to a 3-week one, and that short window almost felt too long. This is a testament to the power of Sunlight—a place where you fall in love with the snow, with the sport, with the mountains, and even with yourself, for getting up after falling.
All You Need to Know about Sunlight Mountain Resort
Skiing is often considered an activity for the affluent. I can sympathize and attest to this—for years, there was no way that I could afford the investments of gear (rental or owned), along with passes and transportation to and from the mountain.
However, Sunlight bridges that gap. It’s one of the most affordable options in the state. Day passes are cheap, especially when you compare them to the high-end options right in the neighborhood. Parking is free, the food is fairly priced, and their lift ticket menu can accommodate nearly any budget.
Chad and I got our tickets for $68 a person for weekend skiing. Sunlight also has pricing for week-day visits, uphill passes, and an incredible range of season passes with options for students, seniors, kids, military, families, corporations, spring skiers, restricted days, and more.
It caters to beginners
Sunlight is perfect for anyone learning how to ski or snowboard. Nearly 75% of the mountain is dedicated to beginner and intermediate terrain (green and blue runs), which are still extremely fun. This also means that the runs are less crowded, since there are so many to choose from, which makes it easier to master the basics.
My favorite thing is that all of Sunlight’s runs end in the same place, regardless of difficulty. This makes it impossible to get lost, and so easy to keep track of everyone in your group.
One lift, Tercereo, is specifically for newbies. The runs are all in slow-zones, and there are specific teaching areas to master everything from pizza stopping to turns, whether you’re with buddies or taking a more formal approach.
Speaking of which, that’s where their on-site ski school comes into play. Lessons, both private and in group settings, are available for anyone ages 3 and up. They have weekly options, one-time classes, adaptive classes, adult clinics, and more. Learn more here.
Bonus: My Favorite Runs Ute (Green) - Sundance (Blue) - Ferret's Hollow (Blue) Ute (Green) - Grizzly (Green)
There’s something for experts, too
In fact, there’s a lot for experts, with much more to come. Sunlight announced a three-phase, $4 million expansion plan dedicated to their expert terrain in the East Ridge. This plan, which is underway with one phase under their belt, will add a new lift to the East Ridge, and will include nearly 100 acres of new skiable terrain.
Until then, advanced riders can challenge themselves on black and double-black diamonds, enjoying several Glade-titled runs and the Alligator Alleys, named for local Olympian Alice McKennis.
You can’t beat these views
Sunlight is located in the heart of Colorado’s Western Slope. It encompasses some of the best views that the Roaring Fork Valley has to offer: red mountains, sweeping valley views, and the snow-peaked Mount Sopris in the distance.
Each run has something different to admire, whether it’s enchanting tree-lines or mountain ridges in the distance.
Pro-tip: Head to Leonard's Lookout for some incredible views. To get here: Ride the Tercereo lift, ski down to the Primo lift, and jump on. Ride to the top, then head down the Grizzly trail (green) a little ways until you find the platform off to the right.
Deals are everywhere
One of my favorite things about Sunlight is how accessible they make getting on the mountain. Meaning, they have a ton of deals and specials that are so enticing that they feel almost too good to be true.
Here’s the deal, though: they’re not. Sunlight deals are both very good and very true. These are some of my favorite options:
- Ski, Swim, Stay. With this package, you get overnight lodging at your choice of participating accommodations (including a shuttle to the mountain), lift tickets for each person, and passes to Glenwood Hot Springs Resort. Read more.
- Learn to Shine. This incredible deal is for anyone looking to learn how to ski or snowboard. This package includes three days of 2-hour lessons, equipment rentals, and lift tickets. Plus, you a get a free 5-day ski pass once you’ve completed the lessons. Read more.
- Slope and Soak 4-Packs. This option includes four full-day lift tickets to Sunlight, plus four passes to Glenwood Hot Springs Resort. Read more.
Like any good ski resort, Sunlight has a lodge with dining options. If you’re like me and need coffee to function, there’s an espresso bar with a full drink menu and grab-and-go options.
For lunch, they’ve got an affordably priced menu at the Outerbounds Grill with classic cafeteria ski fare: you can grab a hot lunch like a slice of pizza or deli sandwich to refuel. At the top of the Segundo lift, there’s also Compass Mountain Grill available for refreshments.
And after the fun on the slopes, guests over 21 can grab a beer at Sunlight’s bar, while kids of all ages can check out Sunlight’s signature Sunny Pop orange soda (a collaboration with Idaho Springs’ Tommy Knocker Brewery). It’s a refreshing reward after working hard.
Sunlight has their own rental shop, too, which is majorly convenient. They have two locations: on-site at the mountain, as well as a shop in downtown Glenwood Springs.
You can buy and rent gear at both locations. They have daily rentals, season-long options, and lots of things for sale.
Fun Fact: Sunlight also sells the most expensive ski ticket in the state! The Sunny 700 is $700 and includes a custom pair of skis.
No crowds, at all
There are some places in Colorado where lift lines can take as long as an hour to get through. (Look at this gnarly coverage of Vail.) This is absolutely not the case at Sunlight.
Even at its busiest, the wait time at Sunlight is always under 5 minutes. That’s even a stretch. You are able to get on the chairs in no time, which results in more runs and time spent on the slopes. You’re getting more of your money’s worth, especially when you compare to larger resorts nearby.
Leaves you wanting more
As soon as you call it quits, load up your car full of gear, and feel the relief of taking off your boots (if you know, you know), you’ll be making plans for next time.
And at Sunlight, next time can’t come soon enough.
Note: Sunlight also offers uphill passes; you can buy a $10 ticket or $50 season pass to skin-ski up the mountain.