Keystone reduces night skiing schedule
KEYSTONE – Local ski shop owner Jim Deines believes night skiing is magical. That’s part of the reason he said he’s upset by cuts in Keystone’s nighttime program.
Night skiing, historically offered every night of the week until 10 p.m., is taking a hit this season.
Several years ago, Keystone began shutting it down at 9 p.m. Last year, it was further reduced to closing at 8 p.m.
This year, will no longer a nightly offering.
In January and February, night skiing will be offered four or five nights a week.
After Thanksgiving, night skiing will only be available on weekends through Dec. 20 – the same as in recent years. Over the Christmas holiday, it will be offered seven nights a week. The reductions come in January and February; then in March, when spring break kicks in, Keystone will kick it back up to a seven-night schedule.
Keystone’s vice president of marketing, Margie Bootenhoff, said the resort will decide whether the switch is to four or five nights “based on arrival patterns, departure patterns, occupancy and demand.”
“We are looking forward to a flexible schedule that’s based on consumer demand,” she said.
The Der Fondue Chessel and Alpenglow Stube restaurants, both located on North Peak, will follow the same schedule as night skiing.
Additionally, Bootenhoff said Keystone is considering eliminating the Peru lift access during night skiing, leaving just the River Run gondola in operation.
“We’re still kind of playing with whether we need two base areas for night skiing,” she said. “Most people prefer the gondola for warmth.”
Deines is upset by the reduction in night skiing.
“That’s been a real asset,” he said. “The fact that they’re shaving it back is disappointing.
“I like the darkness. I like the opportunity to get last tracks as opposed to first tracks. I like to be able to ski when it’s snowing at night – it’s a fantasy time. It’s quiet, not as crowded. There’s a lot of goodness out there.”
He also laments the reduction in hours he’s seen over the years.
“I think it’s got to be a little bit later to call it night skiing or they’d be calling it late afternoon skiing, or early skiing, or dinner skiing,” he said.
Keystone chief operating officer (COO) Roger McCarthy said night skier numbers just don’t justify offering the service every night throughout the season.
“You look in January, and there’s nobody out there on a Monday night,” he said. “It’s a business issue. It’s purely based on the historical visit numbers over a period of years.”
Longtime Keystone resident Bob Follett wonders if cuts at the resort will end up costing Keystone more than they save.
Late last month, Vail Resorts announced a major reshuffling designed to cut $10 million from its budget. That included transferring Keystone COO John Rutter out of state and making McCarthy, then the Breckenridge COO, head of both resorts. Fifty other Vail Resorts employees, many of whom worked for Rutter, were laid off in the belt-tightening. An additional 50 vacant positions were eliminated.
“It seems like sort of a panic reaction to things,” Follett said. “I was riding on a lift with a destination resort visitor who said, “What’s wrong here? This isn’t the Keystone I’m used to.’ So the question is, what is he going to tell his friends? Is he going to come back for spring break? If we have enough of those, we’re in serious trouble. That worries all of us.”
Keystone spokeswoman Dawn Doty said no one should worry that night skiing will go away completely.
“All over the country, people know Keystone for night skiing,” she said. “It’s important we continue to provide that for locals and destination skiers. We think with the schedule we have, we’ll be able to provide those needs.”
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