Colorado daylight saving plan strikes nerve in Aspen

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado

ASPEN – Some Colorado legislators are apparently in the dark when it comes to the potential impacts of a proposed bill that would put the state on year-round daylight saving time, according to one Aspen resort official.

Bill Tomcich, president of the reservations agency Stay Aspen Snowmass and the resort’s liaison to the airline industry, told members of the Aspen Chamber Resort Association board of directors Tuesday that Senate Bill 11-022 poses potentially significant consequences for airline service to Aspen, not to mention the guest experience during the winter months.

Sunrise in Aspen wouldn’t occur until almost 8:30 a.m. in December and January. Only in Alaska (and other places in Colorado) would the sun rise later, Tomcich said.

“Just imagine the impact on our guests when they get up at eight o’clock in the morning and it’s dark,” he said.

Currently, Coloradans follow suit with the rest of the nation (except Arizona and Hawaii, which stay on standard time year-round), setting their clocks back an hour in November and ahead an hour in March.

Republican Sen. Greg Brophy proposed the change, saying he got the idea for the bill after starting a conversation on Facebook last year, according to The Associated Press. Eliminating the need to change one’s clocks twice a year and the extra hour of daylight in the afternoon during the winter are apparently the allure of keeping the state on perpetual daylight saving time.

The bill, which has advanced out of one Senate committee and is headed for the Appropriations Committee (reportedly because it would cost the state about $9,000 to reprogram all of its clocks), is now gaining the attention of Colorado ski resorts and the airline industry, Tomcich said.

Colorado Ski Country USA is mounting opposition to the bill and aviation consultants Boyd Group International has been contacting airlines to ensure they’re aware of the legislation’s potential impacts, according to a Boyd blog post that contends the bill would “torpedo” Denver’s strength as a connecting airline hub. It would “monumentally screw things up” for the three airlines that use Denver International Airport as a hub by putting DIA out of sync with the rest of the country for four months of the year, Boyd said.

“It would affect scheduling into clock-curfew airports such as [Aspen], where air service is a major artery for the region’s main industry, skiing. It would materially shift the viability of [Denver] as a hub, making it two hours different from Pacific time, and making connect-scheduling more difficult to match to local traffic demand,” reads the blog post.

“It’s interesting that the airlines we’ve contacted didn’t appear to have been consulted on the effects of the bill. Neither was the ski industry. But that’s not important to politicians,” the blog continues.

Flights into Denver would no longer work for connections between Aspen and Denver, according to Tomcich, and the final flights into Aspen at night – the planes that provide the first flights out the following morning – might not make it in before Aspen’s nighttime curfew, he said.

The bill also has ramifications for ski resort operations that haven’t been fully explored locally, said David Perry, Aspen Skiing Co. senior vice president.

“It’s less than ideal,” he said of the proposal.

It will mean even more time spent laboring in morning darkness in the heart of winter for those who work to get the ski slopes ready each day, Perry predicted.

“It would change the daily cycle of life, for everybody,” he said.

Tomcich urged the ARCA board to make noise about the bill, and said later that he may head to the Statehouse to testify if there is a hearing on the legislation.

Tuesday afternoon, he sent out an e-mail blast detailing the “unintended consequences” of keeping the state on daylight saving time throughout the winter. It noted:

• Colorado would be out of sync with the rest of the United States for four months of the year.

• For much of December and January, Aspen’s actual sunrise would arrive as late as 8:27 a.m.

• If Colorado recognized daylight saving time year-round, the state would effectively be temporarily moved to the Central Time Zone during the winter, the same as western Florida.

• It seems that the potential impacts to the commercial airlines that connect Colorado with other states, which would be substantial, have yet to be considered.

• One near-certain airline impact locally is the imminent conflicts between the schedule adjustments the airlines would be forced to make and the existing airport curfew at Aspen.

• Other potential local impacts could include necessary adjustments to school schedules, ski area operating hours, bus schedules, as well likely adjustments to operating hours for just about every business in this valley.