Roger Perricone, right, and Rick Mewborne install a foundation for one of 87 towers at Steamboat Ski Area for night skiing.

Doug Allen/courtesy

Roger Perricone, right, and Rick Mewborne install a foundation for one of 87 towers at Steamboat Ski Area for night skiing.

Steamboat Ski Area works on tight timeline to install night skiing lights

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— A $1 million project to light parts of the lower mountain at Steamboat Ski Area is on schedule, ski area officials said.

Doug Allen, vice president of mountain operations, said night skiing should begin before the busy holiday season.

“It’s a huge project in a tight timeline,” Allen said Thursday as more wintry weather was moving into the region.

Before the ski area can turn on the lights, crews need to finish installing the foundations for 87 of the 30-foot towers onto which the 300-watt light bulbs will be mounted. Some of the foundations are being constructed by mounting a platform to steel rods that are being screwed into the ground as deep as 20 feet. In less steep areas, crews were able to pour concrete foundations.

Nordic Excavating and Current Electric have been hired to help the ski area with the work, which included digging trenches to lay the electric cable.

With yet another dusting of snow Friday, crews have been working in some conditions that are less than ideal for construction, but it is a good sign for the upcoming season.

“We’re seeing a winter weather pattern much earlier this year than we have in several years, so we’re encouraged,” Allen said. “I think it’s going to be a great snow year.”

Allen said ski area officials knew construction would go into the ski season, and a snowcat is being outfitted with a crane, bucket and lift to aid in the work. It also will be utilized for maintenance.

“How else would you change the lights?” Allen asked.

He does not see that being done very often, though. The bulbs are rated to last for 100,000 hours. That is the equivalent of running constantly for more than 11 years.

The system also will use one-third of the amount of electricity typical lighting systems use, Allen said. He said the electricity needed to run the system is well below the amount used to power a ski lift.

Aside from the efficiency of the system, Allen said ski area officials are excited about the quality of light the system puts out. With standard systems, night skiing can be compared to skiing in flat light on an overcast day. With the Snow-Bright system manufactured by Ultra-Tech Lighting, the magnetic induction lights create contrast so skiers can better make out the terrain.

Ski area spokesman Mike Lane said they are excited about bringing more people to the base area to enjoy the skiing and amenities. Lane said they are in the process of deciding how many ski patrollers, instructors and lift operators will be needed to operate night skiing. They also need to decide which programs, including lessons as well as possible events like competitions in the Lil' Rodeo Terrain Park, will take place under the lights.

“Lots of opportunities,” Lane said.

Steamboat will be one of only a few ski resorts that offer night skiing.

The ski area anticipates operating at night on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays for about three hours from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. and shifting to 6 to 9 p.m. in the spring. Hours of operation may expand to additional nights during holidays and other special time periods.

The price for the season pass night skiing addition is $49 and will increase to $79 after Dec. 31. A night skiing only pass is $199 throughout the season. The one-night price is $29 for adults, $19 for teens and $9 for children. If purchased seven or more days in advance, the prices drop to $20 for adults, $10 for teens and $5 for children. Those who've purchased six- and 15-day passes can purchase walk-up tickets at advance rates throughout the season.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com

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