Sunlight begins 100-acre expansion project; new East Ridge lift in the works | VailDaily.com

Sunlight begins 100-acre expansion project; new East Ridge lift in the works

Thomas Phippen
Glenwood Springs Post Independent
Skiers and riders swarm around the lodge at Sunlight as the sun warms the slopes this past season.
Skiers and riders swarm around the lodge at Sunlight as the sun warms the slopes this past season.

Sunlight Mountain Resort is starting a $4 million expansion project to add new routes, about 100 acres of expert skiing terrain, and eventually a new chair lift to its East Ridge.

The first phase of the three-year project is currently under way with Sunlight’s trail maintenance crew performing extensive glade work to the ski area’s existing Aligator Alleys, Deception, Defiance, Perry’s Plunge and other double-black diamond terrain.

“This is a multi-year effort, and while glading work is already under way, we are in the very early stages of a process that includes building a capital fund, negotiating additional financing, permitting processes with the county and Forest Service, mapping, planning, and shopping for lifts,” said Tom Hays, general manager at Sunlight.

This fall, Sunlight will offer a special promotion for an exclusive opportunity to be one of the first 25 skiers or riders to experience the new terrain.

But it will take a few years before the new chair lift is added.

The new terrain, located on private land, will be hike-out only until phase three of the project is complete. Trees will also be cleared to make way for a new fixed-grip lift that will be installed in phase three.

Phase two will begin next summer, and involves glading nearly 100 additional acres of forest to the east of Perry’s Plunge that currently marks Sunlight’s eastern-most boundary. Midland Traverse will be expanded to the East, and more runs will be added below Midland Traverse ending just above Four Mile Creek.

“The first step in adding a new lift to East Ridge is building the reserve fund. We anticipate that with another solid ski season we can set aside enough capital to put us in a good position when it comes time to negotiate funding for the project,” Hays said.

More than 203 inches of snow this past season helped Sunlight beat its previous best season ever in terms of revenue set in 2016-17, according to Troy Hawks, marketing and sales director at Sunlight.

Skier and snowboarder visits to Sunlight this past season were up 16 percent above its 10-year average, he said.

The new East Ridge expansion will add more intermediate and advanced terrain to the east, and also lengthen existing runs farther downhill near Four Mile Creek.

While plans are still being drawn, the new lift loading station will be below Perry’s Plunge near Four Mile Creek and the top unloading station will be placed above Beaujolais and Rebel, providing access to beginner, intermediate, and expert runs west of East Ridge.

“We’re excited to expand skiing and riding on the already legendary East Ridge,” Hawks said. “These new runs mean our local skiers and riders have even more powder to explore and exploit.”

A dedicated East Ridge Expansion Project webpage will be added to Sunlight’s website in the weeks to come. Follow Sunlight on Facebook for updates on the project.