Sunlight's intimate, unpretentious atmosphere can be attributed to its small-town roots - named after a once-thriving coal mining town in the area that disappeared in the early 1900s. With its summit situated on Compass Mountain, Sunlight offers skiers beautiful vistas of majestic Mount Sopris and the surrounding Elk Mountain Range, as well as hundreds of acres of mild greens, intermediate slopes and black diamond extremes to satisfy all levels of abilities.
The Sunlight Ranch Company opened for business on December 16, 1966 on 420 acres of private land and 2081 acres of U.S. Forest Service (U.S.F.S.) land, under a 30-year U.S.F.S. special use permit. In 1966, with a handful of trails and one chairlift, Sunlight opened with 15,000 skier days. During the first years of operation Sunlight operated on a shoestring budget. Part-timers and volunteers managed the lift; all other services were operated by local contractors, including ski rental equipment, restaurant facilities and the ski school.
A second chair was installed in 1973 to provide service to newly cut trails and skier days climbed to 38,000. The decision in 1977 to develop a long-range master plan with the Forest Service was instrumental in altering the course of Sunlight and initiating growth. Sunlight also assumed responsibility for all services.
The Sunlight Master Plan was approved by the U.S.F.S. in 1981 and the name was changed from Sunlight Ranch Company to Ski Sunlight Inc. In 1982 skier days at Sunlight reached 73,000.
In 1987 improvements were made to the Primo chairlift and the Tercero lift was installed. These improvements doubled the uphill capacity, moved 45 skiable acres into the upper area of the mountain, and improved skier traffic flow and access to the entire mountain. From a skier standpoint, these improvements eliminated lift lines, even while they increased skier days.
Through stock purchase, the ownership of Ski Sunlight changed between 1990 and 1992. The new owners brought immediate financial stability, placing emphasis on long-term planning, marketing and thoughtful capital improvements. In 1993 Sunlight Extreme was added to the ski area (12 new black and double black diamond trails). Also in 1993 a new 40-year ski area term special use permit was signed with the U.S.F.S.
In 1996, snowmaking was installed on the lower lift trails from midway to the base area. To more accurately describe its evolution to a year round resort, including summer activities for the whole family, and to reflect a more diverse population of recreationalists, Ski Sunlight was renamed Sunlight Mountain Resort. In 1997 and 1998 Sunlight's skier days climbed to 102,000.
While the buildings and trails surrounding Sunlight have changed and continue to improve, the groundwork that was laid by Sunlight's founding fathers in 1966 is still in place today. Sunlight's philosophy remains to provide premier Colorado skiing and snowboarding to visitors and area residents at affordable rates.