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Night riders

Austin Gibson of Grand Lake grinds down the barrel jib in the Ski Granby Ranch Rough Stock terrain park on a recent Friday night. The lights of the town of Granby can be seen in the distance as darkness falls on the valley.
Lance Maggart / Sky-Hi News |

The lift at Granby Ranch sped up as it headed to a point higher on the slopes, outside my view and hidden by the contours of the mountain.

Gently falling airy powder descended from the sky in a thick relentless cascade, gliding and tumbling and piling up on the stark white runs beneath me that sparkled under the floodlights in the fading light. Dusk was settling in on the horizon and as I topped the hill the soft lavender of the alpenglow illuminated the western sky as the town of Granby glittered like Christmas lights in the dark valley beneath me.

As I rode down the mountain through a thick blanket of snow making fresh tracks there was little competition for space on the hill. There were relatively few skiers or snowboarders out at the time. The entire mountain took on an ethereal, dream like feel with a muffled silence only night can bring.

For myself and many other local skiers and snowboarders Granby Ranch’s night skiing operation is something of an open secret. Fridays and Saturdays offer powder heads an additional three-hours of lift serviced down hilling at Granby Ranch. Lift lines for night skiing are typically very short or nonexistent and depending on the weather slopes conditions vary.

If you are lucky enough to catch it on a night when a storm front is dropping multiple inches you’ll find unparalleled conditions. Daily lift operations for Granby Ranch end at 4 p.m. while night operations don’t begin until 5 p.m. The hour delay gives Ranch employees time to rope off sections of the East Mountain that are out of bounds for night skiing. It also gives them the opportunity to regroom several runs for night operations. All night skiing at Ski Granby Ranch is held on the East Mountain at the resort.

An average day for Granby Ranch can see large numbers of guests filling seats on all three chairlifts but as night descends visitor numbers drop off. A very busy night for Ski Granby Ranch will see around 250 visitors while a slow night could see as few as 50.

For Night Skiing Ski Granby Ranch keeps seven trails and three terrain parks open, according to Wolter. Included among the trails Ski Granby Ranch keeps open for night skiing are Easy Money and Ghost Rider as well as the Jackalope and Rough Stock terrain parks.

Easy Money offers a modest difficulty blue trail that follows the path of the Quickdraw Express chairlift. Easy Money is typically regroomed for night skiing. Ghost Rider provides a somewhat more challenging ride through powder stashes and minor bumps while the Jackalope terrain park offers a small jump and two grind features. The Rough Stock terrain park is for more advanced riders with larger jumps and multiple grind features. Those looking to practice their park skills will enjoy the light traffic offered by night skiing.

“It is a fun option,” said Jamie Wolter, Assistant Director of Mountain Patrol at Granby Ranch. “We just ask that people respect other people and as always ski in control and within your ability. Go out and have fun but be careful.”

According to Wolter night skiing is uncommon in Colorado with only two other resorts in the state offering any night skiing options. Ski Granby Ranch is the only alpine skiing resort in Grand County that has night skiing.

“Night skiing has a different feel to it,” Wolter said. “It feels more exciting skiing in the dark. We have lights obviously but it isn’t like skiing in full sunlight. ”

Lift Operations Supervisor Bailey Currington echoed his sentiments. “It is something you have to experience for yourself,” Currington said. “It is a wholly different experience and just a different way to look at skiing.”

Mountain Patrollers like Wolter face unique challenges with night skiing. The visibility off trail, where some guests do venture even though it’s out of bounds, can make patient treatment more difficult. “If someone gets hurt in the trees, which aren’t lit up, it can make for difficult extractions,” said Wolter. Mountain Patroller Blake Langolf highlighted that importance of staying sober for night skiing, explaining that sometimes night skiing guests have spent a bit too long in the bar before heading onto the mountain. “You have to be hypersensitive to the snow conditions at night,” Langolf said.


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