Night Skiing in North America

28 February

Fancy swapping your après-ski for a ski après dark? Well, for the night owls and late risers among you, you might be pleased to know that there’s a lot of choice for skiing and snowboarding after sundown in North America.

Sundown at Mt. Hood SkiBowlPhoto Courtesy of Mt. Hood Skibowl

Though still not as commonplace as its daytime alternative, night skiing is becoming increasingly popular. This year, Sweden’s largest long-distance ski race, Vasaloppet, will get a night-time makeover for the first time, with participants donning their skis at 8pm before travelling all through the night to meet the sunrise, in what race chairman Sven von Holst describes as the “complete nature experience…with historic surroundings and the sounds of the night.”

But, it’s not the only place to get some after-dark slope action. You can ski down the Masik Pass in North Korea come sundown and there are resorts engineered to open late in Japan, Bulgaria, New Zealand, France, Italy, Austria and Slovenia.

Keystone Skiing Resort at nightPhoto Courtesy of Jack Affleck, Keystone Resort

HOW IT ALL BEGAN

Night skiing is not actually a new phenomenon. It all took off shortly after the Second World War when Webb Moffett, then owner of Snoqualmie Summit (now called Summit West) in Washington State, installed gas station lights to illuminate the slopes and make sure his employees got their adequate share of snow time after a long working day.

It proved a good move, as soon members of the public were clamouring for a turn. And while there’s some debate about whether Moffett was the first person to invent night skiing, he is widely credited as the man who made it popular. Because of the summit’s close proximity to Seattle, skiing after work became a very feasible option for many fans, and night skiing began to attract participants by the thousands, many of whom claimed to see the slope contours better under the mercury vapour lamps.

Snoqualmie Summit was christened ‘night skiing capital of the world’ and is still one of the nation’s largest night skiing areas. Webb Moffett was eventually inducted into the National and Northwest Ski Hall of Fame for his continued efforts to keep the Snoqualmie Summit ski area alive during the Second World War.

Mt. Hood SkiBowl Caveman Collective Off-piste skierPhoto Courtesy of Mt. Hood Skibowl

WHAT’S THE REAL DIFFERENCE?

Night skiing – or snowboarding – is a great alternative to the busy and often hectic slopes that you find in daytime. And if you’re lucky enough to live within driving distance of a slope, it’s also a great way to unwind after a hard day’s work. In some cases, night skiing can provide much better visibility if the resort in question happens to sit below the clouds.

So what can you expect on your first night ski?

  • Snow definition is better than all but the sunniest days – this is because of the way in which flood lights illuminate the snow, offering better visibility in some resorts where weather is more temperamental.
  • The crowds are greatly reduced at night.
  • It will be colder, though, so you’ll need extra layers.
  • Most resorts will let you ski or board until eight or nine o’clock at night as a standard.
  • You’ll need to wear clear goggles, for obvious reasons, but many opt for clear cycling glasses.
  • Many resorts offer a combined day/night skiing ticket. Other times, a night pass can be a fraction of the cost of a full day ticket.
  • In resorts where the piste has not been groomed, there is a chance that the snow quality may be poorer. Not surprising after a day’s worth of skiers combined with the cold temperatures hardening the snow.
  • This is no time for off-piste or cross-country adventures. It’s best to stick to established trails and pistes.
  • ‘Buddy system’ skiing is generally advised – although night skiing is a lot of fun and pistes well lit, there is still an inherent risk to the sport, which is increased by darkness.
  • Inevitably, fewer runs are available, but North American resorts are particularly well-tailored to skiing after sundown.

 Whitefish Resort, Montana by Day. Photo by Rajesh DhawanWhitefish Resort by Day Photo by Rajesh Dhawan

Whitefish by NightWhitefish Resort by Night Photo Courtesy of Brian Schott

NIGHT SKIING TODAY

We caught up with Christina ‘Riley’ Polumbus, chief PR manager at Whitefish Resort, Montana to talk about what modern night skiing is like in the Pine Tree State.

“During the holiday break – 26 December to New Year’s Eve – we have night skiing every night. It’s popular with many of our destination guests in town for the holidays, especially families.

“Our ‘typical’ Friday and Saturday nights are very popular with local teens and juniors who don’t purchase a season pass. In fact, a few years ago, the City of Whitefish’s Parks & Recreation Department started an after-school programme for middle schoolers (grade five to eight) to visit the mountain by bus and ski Friday nights. This has been a great way for kids whose parents don’t ski to try the sport. The outing includes chaperones, dinner, transportation and discounted lift tickets and rentals. Our resort is happy to help with discounts and sometimes it pays off later as we help plant the seed for a future season pass holder. In the meantime, it’s a programme that helps local kids experience a sport that is deeply woven into the fabric of our community!

“Our night skiing terrain is serviced by three lifts and features beginner and intermediate terrain. It also includes three of our five terrain parks. I think this is another reason why night skiing is popular for kids and teens. We also provide live music from 4-7 pm at one of our slope-side restaurants, Ed & Mully’s, on Saturday nights throughout the night skiing season. It’s added fun for skiers and non-skiers alike!”

Skiing at Mt. Hood after darkPhoto Courtesy of Mt. Hood Skibowl

WHERE TO GO

Night skiing options are popping up all over the world, but we thought we’d stick to its roots and bring you our guide to the very best spots to head out after dark in the US.

Shawnee Peak, Maine

Home of the most night skiing in New England and one of the longest-operating ski resorts in Maine. Supplying runs under the lights since 1989, the resort now has four lifts servicing 19 trails and three terrain parks. Night skiing takes place six nights a week and the resort also runs special events where the lights are kept on for extra hours on their machine groomed trails – you can ski until 9pm most evenings.

http://www.shawneepeak.com/mountain/maine-night-skiing/

Schweitzer Mountain Resort, Idaho at nightPhoto Courtesy of Schweitzer Mountain Resort

Schweitzer Mountain Resort, Idaho

This is the resort that allows you to marvel at three mountain ranges, Canada and three surrounding states all at the same time. With plenty of snow bowls, gladed runs and well-groomed pistes, Schweitzer serves up night time skiing with a side of night tubing, live music and free rein of the Stomping Grounds terrain park. Ski after work from 3-7pm.

http://www.schweitzer.com/play/twilight-skiing/

Keystone Mountain Resort, Colorado by NightPhoto Courtesy of Keystone Resort

Keystone, Colorado

Long, lengthy night skiing at its finest. In the heart of the Rockies, Keystone is Colorado’s biggest night skiing experience, with terrain parks and long, well-groomed runs to boot. It’s also America’s fourth most visited ski destination. And it offers snow tubing (inflatable doughnut style down the mountain) at night as well.

http://www.keystoneresort.com/ski-and-snowboard/night-skiing.aspx

Mt. Hood SkiBowl, OregonPhoto Courtesy of Mt. Hood Skibowl

Mt. Hood Skibowl, Oregon

Powder magazine describes this Oregon-based resort as the “best place in the US to go night skiing” and rightly so, as it boasts the largest night skiing terrain in the country, with a staggering 34 lit runs to break in your night skiing legs and the most fantastic cosmic, light-up tubing by night between 5-10pm.

http://www.skibowl.com/winter/mt-hood-night-skiing

Cosmic Night Tubing at Mt. Hood SkibowlCosmic Night Tubing Photo Courtesy of Mt. Hood Skibowl

Whitefish Resort MontanaWhitefish Resort Photo Courtesy of Brian Schott

Whitefish Mountain Resort, Montana

Formerly Big Mountain Ski Resort, Whitefish is a great place for all the family to try out night skiing and is a veritable treat for powder hounds, with both beginner and intermediate trails on offer. The resort has a slight penchant for foggy days, but that can be escaped by hitting the slopes at night. Three out of five of their terrain parks are lit as well, so skiers and snowboarders have the option to perform tricks by twilight.

https://skiwhitefish.com/night-skiing/

KIT TO PACK

Triviz Light Pack Harness

Attach it to your body, attach it to your rucksack, attach it to your partner as you’re chasing one another down the mountain. Helpful for more crowded resorts when you need to make yourself seen beyond the floodlights.

Night Rider Backpack from Proviz

Nightrider Backpack – 10 Litres

A lightweight, yet sturdy, bag that incorporates highly-reflective accents and detailing, designed for the ultimate night rider. The chest strap adds stability when you’re heading over moguls or catching some speed.

Proviz LED Armband

If you’re skiing as a family or group, why not opt for blue and red armbands and create high visibility teams to race down the mountain? You’ll have no problem being seen by others at night, and it can be helpful on trails while you to weave in and out of trees.

Reflect360 high visibility rucksack from Proviz

Reflect 360 Backpack

Handy for packing those much-needed extra layers for skiing or snowboarding at night, as well as spare kit and late-night snacks. Use this high visibility, water resistant backpack, developed with millions of integrated beads, to help others map your position as you descend the slopes.

If you’re still in need of convincing, have a look at this awesome video of glowing skiers in Alaska as they descend the slopes, dodging trees and weaving through the empty piste wearing full light suits and LED backpacks over rainbow-lit snow, in a spectacular display. It’s called Afterglow, a project by Colorado-based ski film company Sweetgrass Productions. NB: The LED ski starts at around 6 minutes.

Triviz – award winning Electroluminescent Light

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The latest introduction to our wearable-tech projects. Weighing only 74g, the Triviz is designed to feel like it is not even attached to you. When dark, simply attach the Triviz light pack to your Proviz Nightrider product or Triviz Light Pack Harness in order to increase your own visibility on the roads.

Check out Triviz & Nightrider DEALS