How much does Sunlight cost? $50 million |

How much does Sunlight cost? $50 million

Dennis WebbGlenwood Springs correspondent
The owners of Sunlight Mountain Resort hope to sell the Glenwood Springs ski area for $50 million. (Aspen Times file photo)

The owners of Sunlight Mountain Resort are offering it for sale for $50 million and hoping the buyers can make improvements that could include a 700-home base village.Sunlight General Manager Tom Jankovsky said the upgrades, which also could include faster lifts and more snowmaking, are necessary for the sake of the resort’s future.”To be competitive, there needs to be capital infusion into the area,” he said.Sunlight Inc., a Colorado corporation with 34 shareholders – about a third of them local – owns Sunlight, Jankovsky said. He and his brother Rob, who runs Sunlight’s retail ski and bike shop in Glenwood Springs, are among them. Some minority owners still have ties to the resort’s founder, John Higgs of Chicago, Jankovsky said.The resort’s majority owners each own about a third of the company. One is Leonard Lorentson, a manufacturer living in Indiana. The second is Michael Bodnar, a restaurant owner and developer in the Southeast.Combined, the two own the resort’s controlling interest, and Sunlight’s president and chief executive officer, Richard Schafstall, is their liaison, Jankovsky said.

Sunlight created a base village master plan several years ago.”We spent quite a bit of money back in the late ’90s trying to get investment partners,” Jankovsky said.He said the resort’s owners were about ready to go to Garfield County to seek approval of a planned unit development on 400 acres when they decided they were ski area operators and didn’t want to get into the development business.Some prospective investors initially looked at Sunlight, but over time finding a development partner proved difficult after the dot-com bust, the Sept. 11 attacks and recession, Jankovsky said.With today’s improved economy, Sunlight’s owners think the time may be right to simply seek a buyer.”Things are really quite exciting as far as what’s going on in the valley and the state,” Jankovsky said.Besides its 400 privately owned acres, Sunlight has a U.S. Forest Service permit for 2,081 acres, including 470 acres of skiable terrain and 67 trails. Its assets also include four lifts, a base lodge, the Sunlight Ski School and Children’s Center, a food and beverage operation, a snowmobile tour company, and rental and retail outlets on site and in Glenwood Springs.

Last year the resort opened late and had about 72,000 skier visits. It has previously topped 100,000 skier-days, however.Jankovsky said the fact that some shareholders are nearing retirement and don’t want to take the next step in the ski area’s development influenced the decision to sell.”I think to make this work, a development has to be a part of it,” he said.For now, Sunlight isn’t making its owners rich.”We usually make money when we have good snow,” Jankovsky said.Cash flow isn’t an issue. But he said everything the company makes is invested back into the area.Sunlight has long-term designs on expanding its terrain to Williams Peak, which already is in its boundary. But for now, the base village and on-mountain improvements are higher priorities.

Despite the possible changes at Sunlight, Jankovsky thinks it will hold on to its appeal as a smaller, family-style resort.”I think that part of the equation is not going to change,” he said.He said he doesn’t have a preference about whether a major skiing corporation or other buyer takes over Sunlight.”We’re here to run the resort and at least support this ownership group,” Jankovsky said.He said he would like to continue working at Sunlight, but it may depend on whether whoever buys the resort already has a management team in place.”I’ve been here 20 years. I’d love to retire in Glenwood Springs,” he said.Sunlight has 20 full-time, year-round employees, and during the winter it employs 190 people. Jankovsky said most of those jobs probably would be secure after the resort’s sale.

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