GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Sunlight Mountain Resort had a priest come out and bless the skiers and snowboarders who were patiently waiting for the lifts to begin running early Wednesday morning.
As it turned out, it was indeed a blessed day for the people who made it out for the resort’s 47th season opening.
Sunlight welcomed an estimated crowd of 500 to 600 skiers and snowboarders, who saw what some people said were great early season snow conditions. There were a few signs of sticks and stones sticking up in thin spots on some runs, which is typical for a ski resort just opening up.
These sticks and stones weren’t big enough to break anyone’s bones, though. The resort reported that it opened with a 25-inch base — deeper than the 20-inch base the resort opened with last year on Dec. 14. And for the 75 percent of the mountain that was open on Wednesday, a majority of it showed no sign of dirt or brown.
“There was a spot up on the upper part of the mountain where I ended up falling into about 20 inches of powder,” said 64-year-old Tom Browning of Carbondale. “I’d need to have some wider skis just so I’d be able to float on top.”
Browning has lived in the area off and on since 1971, when he called Aspen home. He hopped around to Telluride and a few places on the East Coast until two years ago, when he relocated to Carbondale.
He always kept skiing, though, and keeps a gauge on early season conditions.
“These are the best conditions before Thanksgiving that I’ve seen,” he said.
The only runs that didn’t get enough snow were the black diamond runs below Gibson Glades on the east ridge of the mountain. Everything else was fair game, with plenty of evidence of some early tree skiing just west of the Primo chairlift.
“We had a great first day,” Sunlight assistant general manager Tom Hays said. “I know that we made a lot of people happy.”
Kicking off the festivities right before the lifts fired up at 8:55 a.m. was Father Harrison L. Heidel of St. Barnabas Episcopal Church, who said a prayer to “bless the snow,” and ensure the overall safety of the skiers and snowboarders. And there was plenty of age range for people on the hill, from seasoned winter-sports junkies like Browning to Hailey Huck, a 3-year-old whose dad, 30-year-old Casey, was taking her skiing for the first time.
“It’s actually pretty good for the first day of the year,” the father said, knowing that he’d be limited to green runs for the day. “I wish I could get a little higher on the mountain to see where the real good stuff is. But her mom is at home with our newborn, so this is a good time together.”