Night skiing offers bright dimension at Keystone
December 26, 2008
KEYSTONE, Colo. The sun falls behind the mountains at Keystone Resort. Parking lots empty as day-tripping skiers leave for home. Vacationers who had crowded into lift lines now crowd around pizzas and pitchers of beer.Its dark.Its cold.Its time to unwind.Relax.Ski.Yeah, thats what Craig Simson is talking about. Simson is assistant ski patrol director at Keystone, and when he gets off work, he often heads back to the mountain.Simson has worked at Keystone since 1991, and he has been skiing at night just as long.Its not an experience unique to Colorado according to the National Ski Areas Association, 192 member resorts offer some kind of night skiing. Most are in the Southeast and Midwest, and most of them are smaller than Keystone.In Colorado, skiers and boarders can play under the lights five days a week at Echo Mountain. Howelsen Hill lights up in downtown Steamboat Springs three nights a week. SolVistas East Mountain, dark at night for several years, is bright at night again.But Keystone is the largest resort in Colorado to turn on the lights at night, offering an experience Simson calls magical. This place goes big at nighttime, lighting up 15 trails and its A51 terrain park.The experience is exhilarating. Take away the sunlight, and the silvery snow seems to undulate under the lights. Take away the crowds, and the trail seems to have no beginning and no end. Its just one of the coolest things, Simson said. Every other ski area closes at 4. When you go up after that, you can see the sunset. Then, the lights come on. If you want, you can ski 12 hours a day. Or you can skip the crowds and only ski at night.Night skiing is popular among ski resort workers and locals who arent intimidated by the idea of navigating their way down a mountain in the dark.(Note to the timid: Its not really dark on the trails giant lights do a good job of illuminating the terrain.)Simson says the experience of skiing in the dark is surreal. You put together the beauty of the scenery with the freedom you feel from skiing anyway. Throw in a snowstorm, and you feel like you are skiing in a snow globe.