Steamboat Springs residents adapt to life next to the new lights at Steamboat Ski Area
March 12, 2014
Steamboat Springs — Anthony D’Aquila and his friends are torn about the new night skiing at Steamboat Ski Area.
D’Aquila’s friends who came to visit him last week at his La Casa condominium near the base of the ski area were excited to hit the slopes after dark.
But when D’Aquila recently stood on the front porch at another friend’s house about 10 miles south of Steamboat at Sidney Peak Ranch, they talked about how the lights’ impact on what once was a view of a dark, starry landscape was greater than they expected.
"It looks like a landing strip from that far away," D’Aquila said Wednesday about the 300-watt light bulbs that illuminate 1,000 vertical feet of Mount Werner. "I think it does have a bit more of an impact visually than I think the ski area indicated it would have."
D’Aquila said he views the new night skiing that currently runs three days per week as a "mixed bag."
"It’s an impact. You can’t deny it," he said.
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He said despite the impact, the lights are “probably a good thing for the mountain overall.”
The ski area announced Tuesday that skiers and riders will be able to night ski on two additional days during the week next ski season.
Some view night skiing’s expansion as a positive step toward trying to keep a base area that once was empty and quiet after dark into a more vibrant place.
But some local residents, including the slopeside condo owners who were strongly against the new lights in the first place, continue to share some concerns about the impact of night skiing.
They hope for a day when the new lights on top of the Christie Peak Express lift towers don’t illuminate their living rooms at night or impede on their view of a starry night sky.
"The most intrusive thing I think has been the direct light that has come from the lights mounted on the lift towers and are pointed at our building," Edgemont condominium owner Fred Auch said. "We’ve talked to Doug Allen (the ski area’s vice president of operations) and he assures us that the resort is going to work on that this summer and arrange some shielding on that. Once that happens, it should take away a lot of the concerns."
Allen said it’s in the ski area’s best interest to keep neighbors happy, and he is working toward a solution.
Auch, who lives on one of the top floors of his complex and is affected by the lights, has given night skiing a go twice this season, so he "can’t say I didn’t receive any benefit from it."
"But if you were to make me king for a day and give me a choice, I wouldn’t have it," he said.
Like some other slopeside condo owners who spoke about the lights Wednesday, Auch said he recognizes and appreciates the ski area’s efforts to make the base area a more vibrant and profitable place.
"They’re running a business and they’re trying to provide better service for guests," he said.
The impact from the lights has extended far beyond the base area.
City Council Member Sonja Macys, who represents the district that includes the base of the ski area, said she hasn’t heard of any additional concerns from base area residents since the lights went live.
But she has been getting some interesting emails.
"I have received a number of photographs of what the lights look like from people’s homes, and a couple have come from the Strawberry Park area," she said. "The emails haven’t been angry or demanding. They just sent the pictures saying ‘This is what it looks like from my neck of the woods, bye bye view.’"
She said she was looking forward to a public hearing in June when the Steamboat Springs City Council and the city’s planning staff will hold a hearing on the impact of the lights so far and what kind of response local businesses have seen from the amenity.
The ski area does not need any additional approval from the city to add more night skiing days to the season.
It would, however, need approval to extend night skiing hours.
City Planner Bob Keenan said the addition of the lights has gone smoothly, and planning staff hasn’t received any complaints about it.
“It seems like it’s been a great boost to the base area and a good complement to the promenade,” Keenan said.
While the ski area and condo owners continue to work together on minimizing the impact of the lights, other base area business owners and the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association are welcoming the expansion of night skiing.
A Facebook post from the Chamber on Wednesday touted the expansion to five nights as meaning "more beautiful evenings on freshly groomed trails high above our cozy little Western ski town."
And the ski area, which offered tourists free night skiing passes with a valid airline boarding pass this season, is pleased with the results so far.
"We had a really good response — from the destination guests as well as our locals — with the night skiing," Rob Perlman, Ski Corp.'s senior vice president of sales and marketing, told the Steamboat Today. "It produced some really good energy at the base area at night."
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