Crusty slopes and computer bugs |

Crusty slopes and computer bugs

Charles AgarAspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN – At 2 a.m. Sunday, Americans will “spring” their clocks forward three weeks earlier than usual, sending ripples through the community deeper than that precious hour of lost sleep.In August 2005, Congress passed the Energy Policy Act, a comprehensive energy plan which includes the extension of Daylight Saving Time by a month beginning on March 11.Locally, the change will mean fewer hours of sun for skiers and hints of the Y2K scare for computer users.What time is it?Americans started observing Daylight Saving Time (DST) during World War I, turning clocks forward in spring and back each fall – “spring forward” and “fall back” – to earn extra hours for the American war machine at home.States and communities followed the practice at random until the 1966 Uniform Time Act, which standardized DST.But it is still up to states and territories to choose whether to change their clocks, and Arizona, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam and American Samoa do not observe DST, but instead stick to standard time year-round.Indiana, which is bisected by time zones, will join daylight savings at the dawn of this year’s change, but remains split between Central and Eastern Daylight time.Supporters of DST say delaying sunrise and sunset not only gives workers like farmers and builders an extra hour of summer sun in the evening, but helps conserve energy.And in 2005, federal legislators decided to extend daylight savings for an additional four weeks to conserve even more.Instead of moving clocks forward the first Sunday in April – starting this year Americans will set clocks back the second Sunday in March (this year, March 11). That means losing that hour of sleep three weeks earlier than usual.And instead of moving clocks back the last Sunday in October, Americans will gain an hour of sleep a week later, the first Sunday in November (this year, Nov. 4).Extending DST is just one piece of the comprehensive energy act, which seeks to address the nation’s growing energy problems and dependence on foreign oil, according to the US Department of Energy Web site.”One day Americans will look back on this bill as a vital step toward a more secure and more prosperous nation that is less dependent on foreign sources of energy,” said President George W. Bush when he signed the law August 8, 2005.Area skiers get less sunWhat the early time change means for area skiers is less sun on the slopes for the day, Aspen Skiing Co. officials said.Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk are slated to close April 1, but Aspen and Snowmass will be open until April 15, meaning more than a month of less afternoon sun on the slopes – which also translates to more hours of hard crust skiing.Thursday, Skico officials considered extending chairlift operation hours because of the early time change, but decided against it – for now.”Right now there’s nothing changed,” said Jeff Hanle, Skico spokesman.But if there is a lot of skier demand, or lots of people “jonesing” for more runs at the end of sunny days, Hanle said Skico officials would consider staggering lift operations – starting some lifts later in the morning and keeping them open later in the evening.”It would be a staffing issue and an energy use issue,” Hanle said. An hour of additional lift opening would cost more in staff pay and use up an hour’s more energy, working in complete contradiction with the principle of DST and federal energy legislation.Plus, skiers are usually “anxious to get down to après ski,” Hanle said, adding that less sunlight on the hill will be a boon for area ski tuners.”If it’s not soft, you need more of an edge,” he said.The Daylight Savings BugWhile the Y2K scare kept computer programmers worldwide scurrying to stay ahead of the time change – what many predicted a digital Armageddon – the planned shift in DST, which some are calling the “Daylight Savings Bug,” will only mean minor hassles, according to area computer experts.”I don’t think its’ going to be anything major for anything anywhere,” said Steve Elman, aka the Mac Man, who runs a computer consulting business in Carbondale.”It’s just going to be an inconvenience,” Elman said, but nothing more than an hour error on some computer clocks.And most computers are already fixing themselves with automatic software updates, Elman said. Computers with older operating systems can easily be brought up to speed by doing a manual software update, Elman said. And for those who don’t update their software, it is no problem to just change the computer time manually. “In a lot of the networks systems, if the times don’t match up, they won’t be able to log on,” said Eric Nettles, who works in information systems with Colorado Mountain News Media, which owns The Aspen Times. He and his staff are busy updating computers in the network, and he called the issue “Y2K-esque.””They’ve done a good job mitigating it and automating it,” Nettles said of software system providers, but added that in a production environment it is important to make sure all the changes have been made.”We’ve been through the drill before,” said Nettles, who worked for Dell Computers during the Y2K change. It’s about anticipating the change and taking steps, he said.Charles Agar’s e-mail address is


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