Lighted man takes on new hues
January 31, 2010
See the Lighted Man
The Lighted Man, Jon Banks, will appear at the Winter Carnival Opening Ceremony at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 3 to allow people a close look at his gear. He then can be seen skiing down Howelsen Hill during the Night Extravaganza at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 6.
Steamboat Springs — The lighted man will have new colors in his electronic plumage this year as he skis down Howelsen Hill in the annual spectacle.
Jon Banks, son of Claudius Banks, who started the tradition in 1936, will this year add a high-tech LED lighting system to his rig that will let him shine as many as 256 colors from his ski poles, skis, suit and helmet.
Banks said he has used some lighted bulbs in the past few years but only as accents to his traditionally white lights. This year, he'll have a microprocessor controlling the lights as he skis down the hill through a programmed set, possibly changing the lights as he rides.
"LED light technology has gone crazy over the past five years," Banks said. "The neat thing about it is the new stuff is much, much better than the old stuff — by quantum leaps."
Banks said the upgrades will cost about $600 but will create a spectacle better than in years past.
The process to improve the suit — a combination of the electronics, fireworks and fire-resistant material — is a process that Banks ponders and researches all year leading up to the Winter Carnival, he said.
"It's kind of a process of evolution, and it moves slowly every year. We don't make any drastic changes because we don't want any drastic surprises," he said.
The system is set up with three circuits on each separate part and six on each ski so that if any one area has a problem, it won't affect the entire suit. Each part is independent of the others, and even some of the main parts of the system, such as the controllers, can be bypassed if necessary to ensure the show goes on.
"We have yet to have a year where everything works 100 percent," Banks said. Banks recalled several incidents where things misfired in the years since he started, in 1971, but recent years have averaged about 90 percent of what he hoped for, he said.
"We learn from what doesn't work, and we work on that," he said. "We always have a list of things we want to have changed and improved."
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