The heart of darkness
There are a handful of skiers and snowboarders who play in the snow while most people sleep. They have hours of fun under the cover of darkness without worries of being frozen alive or lost in the dark as cold winter nights in the mountains slam the elements against them.
Ben Tedore does most of his riding after dark. He is an Apple computer tech at the University of Nevada, Reno.
“It’s way less crowded, and you have runs and obstacles to yourself,” he says. Tedore rides with his girlfriend, Julie Mazzone, and a few others who frequent the night-pass scene at Squaw Valley. “It’s really just a different way to experience the hill. Visually, it’s more exciting.”
The key to riding in semi-darkness is wearing extra clothing layers and retrofitted goggles with clear or light-amber lenses.
“I’m used to it now, and I can see perfectly fine at night,” he says. “It’s especially fun riding in the midst of a mid-winter storm because there’s sometimes powder galore. Even though the drive back is in the dark, and it might be dumping, there’s usually no one on the road to slide into you,” he says with a laugh.
Urban pro riders pursue steel rails and cement ledges in the nighttime hours as well. In the realm of these urban activities, darkness is essential, as that’s when corporate locations are free of parked cars and employees.
"[It brings] a different look and element to your straightforward daylight cinematography,” Standard Film’s Tim Manning says from the company’s offices in North Lake Tahoe. “The way ambient and artificial light conveys through the cameras at night brings an almost surreal aspect to the movie.”
Standard has been making films in the snowboard world for almost two decades, and he always includes segments devoted to evening footage. “We are usually shooting 16mm [film], and we need a lot of illumination, as it’s important for the riders to see good as well as get a good exposure on film.”
This is good for filming, but too much light is overkill for the do-it-yourself urban rider who just wants to ride a grass hill in the city when it’s covered with 14 inches of fresh snow over the last 24 hours.
It’s really quite feasible to find rideable terrain close to streetlights when the snow is good. “The snow reflects and bounces light all around you; even in mid-storm conditions,” Manning claims. So if your funds are short of a nightpass or even a night ticket to a local hill, scout out your city. A power outlet or generator will power your 50-foot extension cord and 75-watt construction light. Then make sure to grab an improvised “Après Ski” hot chocolate from 7-Eleven before heading out for the evening’s urban assault.
Squaw Valley, Boreal and Donner Ski Ranch have illuminated runs after dark. Nightpasses peak out at the $200 range. Tickets hover around $20, as resort riding generally happens from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.