Steamboat Ski Area testing lights for possible night skiing
April 30, 2013
Steamboat Springs — A new Four Points Lodge isn’t the only new attraction in the works at Steamboat Ski Area.
The resort also is looking into the possibility of illuminating some of its lower-mountain terrain to offer night skiing.
The move would land the ski area on a very small list of resorts in Colorado that offer skiing after dark.
"As a resort known for family activities, night skiing seems like an excellent opportunity to further our guest experience," ski area spokeswoman Loryn Kasten said Tuesday. "The promenade enhanced the guest experience here. The Four Points (Lodge) will do that, and night skiing could potentially be another way to enhance it."
The ski area earlier this month invited city officials to the base area for a demonstration of one of the lights they are considering using to illuminate some terrain that runs from the top of Christie Peak Express down to the base area.
The lights, which are manufactured by a New Jersey company, would be much lower to the ground than the lights that illuminate the city-owned Howelsen Hill and would put out less light pollution and better define the slopes, according to city officials who attended the demonstration.
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City Manager Deb Hinsvark said if the resort moves forward with the plan, it would have to go through the city’s planning process and ensure any new lights at the ski area are not intrusive to neighboring property owners.
"I think our reaction is that the ski area is just a very important part of the community, and anything that they are looking at that would enhance the facility in their minds would be something positive in our minds," Hinsvark said.
She added that the city was eager to see the updated technology that powers the lights being considered by the ski area because it could translate to improved lighting at Howelsen Hill.
Howelsen currently is one of only a few ski areas in the state that offer nighttime skiing. Keystone Resorts added the amenity in 1985, and officials there said it has proven to be a popular attraction.
"I can certainly say we hear from our guests very often that it’s a trademark of Keystone, and it’s one of the reasons they choose us over other ski resorts," resort spokeswoman Laura Parquette said. "When you arrive here late in the afternoon from Texas and you’re instantly able to get on snow, it’s added excitement.”
The resort offers night skiing on 243 acres of its terrain on Durkam Mountain. Parquette said the resort gives free nighttime skiing tickets to guests who stay at properties managed by the resort.
At Granby Ranch, night skiing also has proven popular.
The lights were added there in 2003 and illuminate three intermediate runs, the terrain park and the bunny hill.
"It’s pretty popular," Operations Manager Jill Kohlwey said. "It’s way better when it’s warmer out. It gets pretty cold in late December and January, so it can be kind of tough."
She said that on a busy holiday weekend, as many as 500 people take advantage of the extended hours on the slopes, and the extra traffic benefits the restaurant at the base of the ski area.
Here in Steamboat, Howelsen Hill has offered night skiing Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays during the ski season. Tickets are $10, and skiers are able to ride the Poma and magic carpet lifts until 8 p.m.
But the amenity hasn’t attracted many skiers other than the ones who ski in programs like the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club or compete in races or jumping events at Howelsen.
"We do get some members of the general public down there, but more likely it is those people who are participating in those programs," Howelsen Hill supervisor Craig Robinson said.
Robinson and Chris Wilson, the director of the city’s Parks, Open Space and Recreational Services Department, said night skiing at Steamboat Ski Area could be a complementary use, not a competitive one.
"It’s good for the industry," Wilson said about night skiing. "It brings people here. We don’t see it being a marketing issue for the city, and it may be that we get some additional people (at Howelsen) who find that night skiing is fun."
To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com