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Sunlight Winter Sports Club wants its own space, fundraising for new clubhouse

Big check from Integrated a giant step toward new clubhouse

John Stroud
Glenwood Springs Post Independent

The Sunlight Winter Sports Club has grown into its own over the years at the small-town ski resort outside Glenwood Springs, but has long since outgrown its current makeshift club quarters.

This season, the club launched a fundraising campaign for $40,000 to build a new clubhouse at the base of Sunlight near the Segundo Lift station.

The new facility would replace the old, dilapidated trailer that was removed a couple of years ago, and give the 80-plus youth ranging in ages from preschool to high school a space all their own again.

“The mountain has been kind enough to loan us a small space for the year, but we are growing and it’s time to raise the roof and erect a new ski clubhouse,” Lynn Merriam, president of the Sunlight Winter Sports Club board, said.

The new clubhouse would be built on the footprint of the former trailer facility, and provide slopeside access to the ski mountain, as well as the Babbish Gulch Nordic trail system.

“Between all these kids, we really need a space for them to get ready for the day, to have snacks and lunch, a place to host home races, and just a place that the kids can call home base,” Merriam said.

A fundraising website has been set up at https://donorbox.or/clubhouse.

During the Buddy Werner regional championships on March 1, Integrated Mountain Properties of Glenwood Springs gave a big boost to the effort with a check presentation for $8,800.

The Sunlight Winter Sports Club now encompasses the long-established Buddy Werner ski racing development program and the age-class Sunlight Ski Team, as well as the relatively new non-competitive All-Mountain recreational ski program.

This season, there were 54 children ranging from age 4 to 12 in the Buddy Werner program — up from the past two years — plus 22 youth ages 8 to 16 in the All Mountain program, and eight age-class racers who compete in Junior Olympics-level ski races.

“We’ve really been diversifying to try to grab other kids and create that lifestyle adventure culture,” said Merriam, whose own children take part in Buddy Werner.

The All-Mountain program — under the direction of Jake Gentry — was begun last year as a way to add a more recreational aspect to the club’s offerings.

“It’s more lifestyle and non-competitive, and introduces the kids to the possibilities offered by winter sports,” Merriam said. “The kids just go out and ski with coaches and set goals to try to grow their skillset from greens, to blues, to blacks.”

The Buddy Werner program — named for the legendary 1950s and ’60s Steamboat Springs ski racer — has been part of Sunlight since the ski area’s early days in the 1970s, and has produced the likes of current U.S. Ski Team member Alice McKennis.

It introduces younger skiers to competitive ski racing, along with a fair amount of all-mountain free-skiing and skills development accompanied by a group of volunteer coaches. Among them is program coordinator Caroline Rubin, a former Buddy Werner racer herself.

The season concluded March 1 with the Buddy Werner regional championships at Sunlight, which invited 150 skiers from the Sunlight, Powderhorn and Beaver Creek clubs to compete in a giant slalom event on Sunlight’s Joslin run.

With the new clubhouse, the Sunlight Winter Sports Club would also have a good opportunity to introduce Nordic skiing to its program offerings, Merriam said.

“Sunlight already has the infrastructure,” she said of the Babbish Gulch trail system. “And it would be right out our back door.”

In addition to Rubin and Gentry, Leigh Sheldrake is the current head coach for the Sunlight Ski Team.

“We’re a small ski club in a big ski area,” Merriam said. “Community and lifestyle skiing is what our demographic is, so that’s what we’re trying to build upon.”

She also noted that donations to the clubhouse fundraising project are tax-deductible.

The Sunlight Winter Sports Club will be celebrating its 50th year of existence during the 2021-22 ski season.

jstroud@postindependent.com


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