John F. Russell: Skiing takes its place under the lights

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John Russell

John Russell's sports column appears Sundays in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 871-4209 or email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com.

Find more columns by John here.

— There are just some things that you shouldn’t do in the dark.

You shouldn’t try to play a round of golf after the sun sets. You shouldn’t race down a single-track trail at high speeds on a mountain bike or launch into your very first cliff diving experience. Playing dodgeball in your driveway on a dark night also is not recommended.

I’m sure there are a lot of people who have tried these things, and with the help of a full moon and a good headlamp, have been successful. I’m just saying that it doesn’t seem right.

I would include skiing in the mix, but as a teenager growing up in Denver, I made the drive to Keystone with friends to ski at night. To my surprise, it was fun.

When I made the trip I thought that I would be skiing down the same steep slopes just like any other day on the mountain. But I soon realized that the slopes were limited to the ones with lights, and the trickiest thing was adjusting to the somewhat frozen snow conditions.

The advantage was that the lift ticket was cheaper, the crowds were sparse and I knew we were not going to be dealing with traffic on the way home later that evening. If my memory serves me right, it was a warm night, and thanks to artificial lights and pretty low expectations, we all ended up having a pretty good time.

Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. is hoping to offer that same experience to skiers this winter. Last week, the ski area announced that they plan to add lights at the bottom of the ski area and will begin offering night skiing this winter. It’s not new — Steamboat’s Howelsen Hill has offered skiers the chance to hit the slopes in the dark for years. But this is not intended for young athletes looking for a few more hours of training, or those who just can’t get enough on the steep pitched face of Howelsen. These are beginner and intermediate slopes. The kind of slopes that someone visiting our town would venture out after dark to ski.

At first, skiing at night seems like a crazy idea, especially to those who are not familiar with the sport.

But it also offers another chance for visitors to our ski area to have a unique experience that they may not have dreamed of when they boarded a plan in Texas, Illinois or Washington state.

The truth is that we do a lot of things at night that don’t make a lot of sense. Major League Baseball games are played at night, people play tennis in the evening after work, and where would we be without cosmic bowling?

In most cases, I would agree that the idea of skiing, or bowling for that matter, in the dark is pointless. But with artificial lights, anything is possible.

I hope the ski area has a plan to deal with any problems night skiing might bring to the valley. I hope the residents of the condo units that line the intermediate and beginner runs are not bothered by light pollution and noise.

But if the ski area is willing to try to convince novice skiers to hit the slopes after dark, foot the bill to put up and power the lights, then I refuse to bash the idea of skiing at night. I still argue that there are a few things you just should not do at night — including skiing and cliff diving. But maybe if we give it a chance, it could turn out to be a lot of fun.

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209 or email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com

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