Despite Modest Size, Sunlight And Powderhorn Offer Up Complete Package
Shunning the glitz, a pair of mid-sized mountains on the Western Slope of Colorado bring a bit of the old-school and historic experience back to skiing and riding in Rocky Mountains
Perched on the east edge of the Grand Mesa, Sunlight Mountain opened in 1966, and its front side of Sunlight Mountain appears much as it has been for the last five decades: A ton of blue groomers, a couple of long top-to-bottom greens, and a sprinkling of black glades and pitches.
However, the big change came a couple of seasons ago when the East Ridge came onto the trail map. Its dozens of double-diamond plunges doubled Sunlight's skiable acres to 730, and gave gnarl-seeking locals a reason to eschew the fancy Aspens and take the 13-mile drive up from Glenwood Springs.
This season, Sunlight joined the Indy Pass network for two days at any of 120 resorts in U.S., Canada and Japan. An adult Sunlight season pass includes free days at Loveland, Monarch, Powderhorn and Ski Cooper.
In 2023, skiers and riders will find a new ski school yurt at the base area, along with a new outdoor food station for grab 'n' go. Never-evers get a good deal at Sunlight with the Learn-to-Shine combo of rentals, three half-day lessons and five day tickets anytime afterwards.
Sunlight's three chairlifts are dated ("youngest" went in 1987). So it's big news for locals and day-trippers that the 50-year-old Segundo double chair with a triple fixed-grip next season.
About an hour's drive down-valley sits Powderhorn, off the northern edge of the Grand Mesa near Grand Junction. The trail maps spreads between two 9,800-foot elevation high grounds with 1,600 acres, three chairlifts and two surface lifts.
From a rope tow in the 1940s through multiple owners of varying successes, Powderhorn was bought by experienced Colorado ownership in the last decade. The first step was to put up high-speed quad in 2015. The quad reduced lift lines at the base and ramped up access to Powderhorn's long, groomer blue runs and expert terrain on its east edge.
Novices can ride to the top and wander down the switchbacks of Stagecoach-Pacemaker green run to the novice-friendly base area. Across the way, the two-seater West End chair drops off above some the Powderhorn's steepest terrain.
This summer, crews added capacity to the mountain's snowmaking system, cleared out about 100 new parking spaces, and installed the second beginner surface lift.
Powderhorn season passes include three reciprocal days at a dozen mountains in the West, including Colorado partners Sunlight, Loveland, Monarch, Ski Cooper and Bluebird Backcountry.