A bill making its way through the state Senate that would extend daylight savings time to be year-round in Colorado is causing a stir in the ski industry.
Industry leaders in Colorado are coming out against the proposed legislation, saying extending daylight savings will mean the sun rises as late as 8:30 a.m. some days in December and January, delaying crucial morning operations at ski areas and, ultimately, impacting resorts' hours.
"Vail Resorts is not in favor of the bill because of the operational challenges it poses for getting resorts open and other unknowns," Breckenridge Ski Resort spokeswoman Kristen Petitt stated in an email.
The bill's sponsor, Sen. Greg Brophy, a Republican from Wray, said the bill will give Coloradans a few extra hours of daylight in the afternoons to enjoy outdoor activities and will do away with the need to re-set clocks twice a year. He said he doesn't put much store behind arguments against the bill.
"I think (the ski resorts') excuses are just made up," Brophy said. "It's almost as if ... they think I'm shortening the time in the day. I'm an all-powerful member of the Senate, but I can't do that. I call BS."
Brophy said he believes the industry's opposition stems from a high-ranking individual who just doesn't like daylight savings.
The proposed legislation was unanimously approved by the Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy committee March 16 and is set to be heard by the Senate Committee on Appropriations Friday.
The bill is expected to cost the state approximately $9,500 the first year, due to costs associated with implementing clock and time-stamp changes.
Colorado, along with all states in the U.S. except Arizona and Hawaii, currently operates on daylight savings time between March and November.
Setting the clocks back an hour in the fall shifts the daylight hours earlier, giving ski resorts some time between sunrise and the first chair for avalanche mitigation and grooming the runs, operations, industry reps say. Losing that preparation time would impact the resorts' whole day, they said.
"This would force us to move our operating hours from 9 (a.m.) to 4 (p.m.) to at least 10 (a.m.) to 5 (p.m.)," said Craig Bannister, public policy manager for Colorado Ski Country USA, which represents Copper Mountain, Arapahoe Basin and Loveland. "We're already seeing people leaving the slopes earlier. If we switch our hours, those same people are still going to be leaving early to beat traffic. This law would cut an hour of operation from our day."
Bannister said the loss would have a trickle-down impact on ski communities and local businesses.
"We haven't seen a compelling reason ... why we need to change this," Bannister said.
Summit's Rep. Millie Hamner, a Democrat representing House District 56, said the bill is concerning both in its potential implications for the ski industry and for students waiting for school buses in the morning.
"While I understand the appeal of longer daylight hours, I am troubled by the thought of our small children standing in the dark while waiting for a school bus," Hamner stated in an email. "And I am concerned about the potential effects on our local businesses associated with the ski and hospitality industries."
Some are also concerned about potential impacts to the airline industry, saying the switch to year-round daylight savings time could disrupt scheduling.
Boyd Group International, an aviation consulting firm, stated in a recent blog post that the bill would put Denver an hour off from the rest of the country part of the year, damaging its position as a key connection hub.
"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," the firm stated in the blog post. "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."
If passed, the legislation would go into effect this year.
The Aspen Times contributed to this story.