Glenwood Springs Ski Resort History

Glenwood Springs Skiing

In the 1880s, a few adventurous souls tried the novelty of downhill skiing equipped with hand-hewn wooden boards strapped to their boots, but the general public didn’t embrace skiing until the 1930s.

Glenwood’s Red Mountain Ski Area opened for business in 1941. At the time, Red Mountain, which was served by one of the nation's longest chairlifts, was considered one of the best ski areas in the Western U.S. The old ski lift towers are still plainly visible on the Red Mountain/Jeanne Golay Trail. From 1965 to 1966, the area operated as Glenwood Mountain Park, but due to unpredictable snowfall and competition from more sophisticated ski areas, operations on Red Mountain permanently ceased in 1966.

In 1947, brothers Don and John Vanderhoof foresaw that skiing was here to stay. They opened Holiday Hill, situated approximately at the current site of Sunlight Mountain Resorts Showdown trail. With only the one run, skiers were pulled up the hill by two 1,200-foot tow ropes powered by the engine of a 1929 Buick Touring car!

In the mid-60s, John Higgs, a Chicago-based advertising executive saw potential in Glenwood’s hometown hill. He, along with other stockholders, formed the Sunlight Ranch Company. Sunlight opened on Dec. 16, 1966. At the time there were three runs and one chair lift called “Primo,” named after local rancher Primo Martinez. During the first years of operation, Sunlight ran on a shoestring budget; with part-time management and local volunteers. In 1981, the area’s name was changed from Sunlight Ranch Company to Ski Sunlight Inc.

Ownership changed again in the 1990s. The new owners brought financial stability and significantly improved the ski area. In 1993, “Sunlight Extreme” opened. This area of the mountain featured 12 new experts-only trails. In 1996, the ski area rebranded itself with a new name Sunlight Mountain Resort. The name change reflected the fact that Sunlight offered visitors accommodations and year-round activities such as horseback riding in the summer months.

Explore all of the historical things to do, learn and see in Glenwood Springs with a modern twist; there is something for everyone and a new adventure to be had every day! For more Glenwood Springs history, visit the Glenwood Springs Historic Society and Frontier Museum