Let your senses take over and ski into the evening at Steamboat Ski Area
December 19, 2013
If you go
Steamboat’s night skiing celebration
5 p.m. Opening ceremonies
5:20 p.m. Torchlight parade
5:25 p.m. Fireworks
5:30 p.m. Countdown Christie Peak lift opens
Normal schedule: 5:30-8:30 p.m., Friday through Sunday
Holiday schedule: 5:30-8:30 p.m., Dec. 26-Jan. 5
Window rate: adult, $29; teen, $19; child, $9.
Seven days advance purchase: adult, $20; teen, $10; child $5.
Feeling tentative about what may be your first night skiing experience? Take the advice of two of Steamboat's most acclaimed skiers, Deb Armstrong and Billy Kidd, and enjoy the sensory experience and ski like an Olympian. It's not as difficult as you might think.
Steamboat Ski Area begins a new era today with a celebration of night skiing's debut on Mount Werner, and with holiday skiers beginning to pour into Yampa Valley Regional Airport, there may be a few for whom the prospect of skiing 1,000 feet of vertical after dark is daunting.
Be assured, the Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. has installed the latest in snow-lighting technology to illuminate trails including Sitz, See Me/See Ya, Vogue, Stampede and Lil' Rodeo, with options for intermediates and beginners. Skiers worried about seeing the slopes clearly at night might consider a set of clear ski goggle lenses, though they may not be necessary on calm, clear nights.
Pete Dawson, of One Stop Ski Shop, said Thursday that some models of Scott and Smith goggles come with two sets of lenses, one of them being clear. And the ease of changing lenses has improved dramatically in the past decade. It's as easy as flipping a small lever to remove a daytime lens and pop in a clear lens.
Armstrong, Steamboat Winter Sports Club Alpine program director, said her youthful night skiing at Alpental, Wash., outside Seattle was a vivid experience that has stayed with her all of her life.
When she was in fifth and sixth grades, Armstrong said, she and her friends would pile on a bus and go up to Alpental in the Cascade Mountains and ski under the lights.
"The sensations of the brisk air at night, the experience of skiing under the different lighting, that in my mind is what goes deep within our memory," Armstrong said. "It was really special. It will be interesting to see how that translates up at the ski area. It's my feeling that it will."
She endorses night skiing as a way to shake things up a little to create lasting memories and likened the sensory aspects of night skiing to a recent trip to the Old Town Hot Springs with her daughter to soak in a steaming pool of water.
"With the darkness and the steam, it was completely different from going to the hot springs in the daytime," Armstrong said. "It was a completely different aura. It's those sensations that I think penetrate deep into people's memories. We all get in our routines, but memorable experiences come from doing something out of the ordinary."
Of course, there's nothing new about night skiing in either Steamboat Springs, or for that matter in North America. It's at the big destination ski resorts that it's a novelty, Armstrong said. There has been night skiing at Howelsen Hill, where Armstrong oversees developing ski racers, for decades.
And just like Armstrong, Kidd spent some of his formative years on skis at a little area, in this case, just outside Burlington, Vt., at Underhill Ski Bowl.
"Our sport has become so sophisticated, so expensive and unreachable for many people," Kidd said. "For kids throughout the United States and farm kids outside Burlington, night skiing at Underhill was inexpensive and a big deal."
Kidd said his father took him to Underhill when he was as young as 8 years old.
"When I look back, I remember just how much fun it was," he said. "The lights were pretty far apart; it was almost like streetlights. You'd ski from one patch of light to another. At that age, I just couldn't get enough of skiing."
It may be coincidental that Armstrong and Kidd went on to win Olympic medals, she in giant slalom in 1984 in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia, and he in 1964 in slalom in Innsbruck, Austria.
Kidd said there is a significant opportunity this winter to watch on television as five American skiers, who are the best in the world, compete in World Cup competitions leading up to the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia. All of us could borrow some of their techniques to become a better night skier.
When a race course becomes technical, Kidd said, champion skiers like Americans Bode Miller, Mikaela Schiffrin, Ted Ligety, Lindsey Vonn and Julia Mancuso adopt a functional style that's fast but also affords good balance. Recreational night skiers should have the same strategy in mind, he said.
"The goal in night skiing is to have functional technique," Kidd said. "During the day you might show off with your feet together, but at night you want to really pay attention. It's more of a challenge. If you watch Olympic skiers when it's technical, they ski with their feet apart, knees bent and hands out."
Take it from a couple of Olympians who began night skiing at a tender age, night skiing is for making enduring memories.