Sunlight sheds light on the future
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” The Sunlight Mountain Resort of tomorrow could feature top-to-bottom snowmaking, new and faster lifts, a mountaintop restaurant, a 750-unit housing development and many year-round attractions.
It also would continue to offer good prices on season passes, programs for kids, a Ski Patrol and other amenities that helped make Sunlight what it is today, resort officials promise.
“All those things that made the culture of Sunlight will still be there,” said Sunlight’s general manager, Tom Jankovsky, in an open house held Thursday to outline the resort’s planned upgrades.
More than 200 people, many of them devoted patrons of the resort, turned out at the Glenwood Springs Community Center to hear a conceptual proposal of what is in store for the resort since it went under contract to be sold to a Florida company, Exquisite Development.
Jankovsky outlined plans that include 120 acres of snowmaking; a high-speed, top-to-bottom lift along with another new lift serving the resort’s east side; a new base lodge and rental shop; a hotel and spa, a three-story parking structure, and a mix of condominiums, townhomes, duplexes and single-family homes.
The ski-in, ski-out development would include service by a pulse gondola ” the same kind of gondola that provides access to Glenwood Canyon Adventure Park.
Lifts would operate in the summer, serving the mountaintop restaurant, and there would be mountain biking, hiking, free concerts and outdoor movies, much as is seen at other resorts, Jankovsky said.
“This vision is to create a village that is year-round, that is a year-round playground,” he said.
He said changes have to happen as the 41-year-old resort looks ahead toward the next 40 years. Much of the current infrastructure was built in 1966.
The improvements also will provide a boost for tourism in the Glenwood Springs area, especially when it comes to weekday business, Jankovsky said.
Yet he added that Sunlight’s plan “is not just for the visitors, it’s also for the locals.”
The resort would take further advantage of natural glades and nice novice terrain in the parks area on the resort’s east side, and build a new trail to the west of the gentle Ute run on the far west side.
The snowmaking would draw gravity-fed water from a reservoir high on the east side of the mountain. Sunlight had considered putting in a reservoir at Babbish Gulch, now a cross-country skiing area, but ran into wetland concerns. The cross-country trails would remain under the plan.
There are no immediate plans to develop nearby Williams Peak, although that could occur later in the development, Jankovsky said. The ski area has a permit to expand onto Williams, which is now a popular backcountry skiing spot.
Thursday’s open house was the first of two public meetings Sunlight plans to hold to gather input before submitting a formal proposal to Garfield County. The date of the next meeting has yet to be set.
Konnie Krahn-Prosence, who lives in the Four Mile Road area on the way to Sunlight, took a particular interest Thursday in what improvements might be made to the road to serve the development. Another resident of the Four Mile Road area, Jim Setterberg, said the development will create impacts, but will bring about the kinds of improvements that have been needed at Sunlight for a long time.
Setterberg, who has worked on the Ski Patrol at Sunlight for 17 years, said the resort development will provide a population base to support the necessary infrastructure changes.
Krahn-Prosence has skied at Sunlight for 20 years. She and Setterberg said they appreciate the resort’s interest in public input.
“I think that they want to do this (project) holding hands with the community,” Setterberg said.
Steve Beckley, who owns Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, is curious how Sunlight will overcome some of the infrastructure challenges related to the development. But he said the resort is important to tourism businesses such as his and he is glad to see that changes are planned.
“I do think that something has to be done. I think that Sunlight is dying a slow death,” he said.
Bob Chamberlain, who has skied at the resort since its opening, said he’ll deal with whatever changes come there. But he thinks the resort could make some low-cost improvements such as widening runs at choke points. He also likes how much natural, ungroomed snow Sunlight has compared to other Colorado resorts, and worries what additional snowmaking and grooming will do to the skiing there.
“I have to look at it from a skier’s point of view,” he said.
Mike Dooley of Exquisite Development said he was pleased by Thursday night’s turnout, but not surprised.
“It’s really evident that the local community takes a personal interest in Sunlight,” he said.
He said developers will use the comments received from the public meetings to refine plans. He hopes a formal proposal will be submitted to the county within 60 days. Sunlight also will need U.S. Forest Service approval for its mountain plans because it leases 2,100 acres from the Forest Service.
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