Tony Vagneur: Shedding a little light on beauty of Sunlight’s mellow pace |

Tony Vagneur: Shedding a little light on beauty of Sunlight’s mellow pace

Tony Vagneur
Saddle Sore

On Tuesday, we grabbed our gear and headed for the great Sunlight Mountain Resort, located up 4-Mile Creek about 10 miles outside Glenwood Springs. It was a family get-together, including in-laws, all of us from the valley. The snow softened just enough and it was a good day, especially for the kids.

We were guests of the North Thompson Creek Cattlemen’s Association, an organization that goes back many years, when my family and the Burtards ran cattle up there, not to mention that the Burtards managed the grazing permits. My son-in-law, Ty Burtard, and his sister Kasie traveled all over that country on horseback, from the age of 2 onward. And in the winter, they skied almost every weekend at Sunlight.

It proves the point, believably so, that my grandchildren (and my daughter and Ty) don’t do much around here without being intricately tied to the history of the valley. And that’s a good thing in my estimation.

For another thing, the drive to Sunlight is a weekend delight in itself, relieving a bit of the cabin fever that starts to set in about now. Driving up 4-Mile, a narrow valley with productive ranches on either side of the road and, undeniably, the seemingly ubiquitous housing developments along the way, proves to be relaxing. You can’t miss the resort — it’s at the end of the road.

It’s one of those places where you drive up to the base area, park, put on your boots and walk up a flight or two of stairs, which end right at the ticket office in a most propitious manner and “poof!” you know you’ve arrived. The kids impatiently hang on to their equipment, waiting the word from parents to saddle up.

My grandson Cash and his cousin Eli are the first on the snow, leaving nothing but the view of their backs as they light out for the first lifts. Eli, who is a little older and has skied here before, was a good guide — he took Cash directly to the terrain park. Don’t worry, you can’t lose your kids at Sunlight because all trails converge at the bottom of the mountain at the same place.

The boys were putting it on the terrain park but also weren’t afraid to duck off the main trails and into the trees. Man, there’s a lot of gladed terrain at Sunlight, and there was still some untracked snow the day we were there.

Granddaughter Charli, whom I haven’t skied with in a few weeks, has improved immensely. She took up with her older cousin Tru who knows her way around the mountain and they made a good team. At 4, Charli’s a parallel skier who understands ski edges and can make sharp, quick turns to slow down, although being the youngest (and lightest) of the group, she could be seen in a practiced tuck more often than not. Watching them, she and Tru were pure motivation on the move.

The chairlifts are old school, which lends a relaxed air to the entire area. No one seems in a hurry to clock a new vertical record for the day, no rush to smoke any one cruising ahead on the trail, and from the top of the mountain, the views are, in real estate agent’s language, endless. I’m going back, just to soak up more of those views.

Friendliness is the order of the day, from the person parked next to you in the lot, to the ticket sellers, to the folks checking tickets and loading chairs; the ski pros have a great attitude about it all — have some fun, get the smiles going and then get serious about improving.

There are some black and double-black runs on the area, but with our divergent crew, we didn’t hit any of them as a group. The sharp eye of this Grumpa noted the entry to Perry’s Plunge, no doubt named after Bob and Ditty Perry — well-known, longtime valley ranchers (think Perry’s on Aspen Mountain, as well). There was an itch to try it out, but we were on our way to lunch, and like I said, I’m coming back again to check out the views, if nothing else.

If you’re looking for a change of pace, a place that brings back a thousand memories of the days you might have spent skiing at a small area as a child, a place where kids and adults get along on the trail, and a nice drive to boot, ending in a quiet parking lot, Sunlight is as close as you’ll get around here. Give it a try.

Tony Vagneur writes here on Saturdays and welcomes your comments at