Interstate 70 serves as the main artery of Colorado skiing. Weekend warriors sitting in a Sunday-evening traffic jam headed back to Denver might say that artery needs bypass surgery, but the highway is nonetheless essential to the state’s ski industry.
Located at opposite ends of the busiest skiing stretch of I-70 in Colorado, Loveland and Sunlight share a common appeal. Loveland Ski Area, literally on top of I-70’s Eisenhower Tunnel, and Sunlight Mountain Resort, a short distance from the Glenwood Springs exit, both offer uncrowded lifts, a good value, and excellent terrain.
Most skiers and boarders simply drive past Loveland Ski Area on the way to some of the more well-known destination resorts. Loveland’s lack of base-area lodging and the view from the highway can be deceiving. Judging just by terrain, Loveland can hang with the big boys. In fact, it is almost three times bigger than Aspen Mountain in terms of skiable acres.
“People often think we are a lot smaller than we are, because you can’t see very much of it. What you can see from I-70 is just a fraction of the terrain that we have. We’ve got 1,800 acres of terrain,” said John Sellers, Loveland’s marketing director. “You bring somebody new here and take them up Chair 1. They take a look at the horseshoe around the tunnel and they are always just amazed in that they had no idea this place was so big.”
The expansive terrain became more accessible this season with the addition of the Ridge Cat, a free 20-passenger snowcat serving challenging lines previously reached by a 30-minute hike. At the other end of the ability spectrum, Loveland Valley offers an ideal learning set of trails, located a short shuttle ride from the main part of the ski area.
At just 470 skiable acres, Sunlight Mountain Resort might not have the immense terrain of Loveland, but the area still provides a great amount of variety. Beginners and intermediates have plenty of options. Perhaps more surprisingly for a smaller area, experts can take on some of the steepest double-black runs in the state. The Heathen, for instance, features a pitch of 52 degrees.
Especially on a weekday, personally meeting and remembering the name of every other skier and boarder on the mountain seems like an attainable goal. In other words, if you ever wanted to have your own private ski area, a visit to Sunlight should at least give you a taste of your dream.
Sunlight does have some base-area lodging, but many visitors choose to stay in Glenwood Springs, located 12 miles from the ski area. The town’s name comes from hot springs that are a popular year-round attraction.
“Glenwood Springs, as a whole, I think is cool. It has a lot of history,” said Jennie Spillane, Sunlight’s marketing manager. “Glenwood has a lot of family-owned restaurants. It’s not all chain restaurants. It has smaller shops too.”