Darkness un-Vailed

  Night skiing on Vail Mountain is in the dark - for now. After four years of research, Vail Associates unveiled plans last month to light up Vail Mountain for evening skiers and snowboarders. But local residents - unimpressed by a high-tech Hungarian lighting system - forced the company to reconsider the proposal that had already garnered local business support.

Residents of the Potato Patch neighborhood, across the valley from Vail Mountain, objected the loudest. They also worry that animal habitat will be harmed as night skiing spreads. "If it is effective here, it will be pushed to (the neighboring resorts of) Beaver Creek and Keystone as well," said Potato Patch resident Sally Clair.

As a result, the company withdrew its plan before the Forest Service completed an environmental review. The Holy Cross Ranger District is the decision-maker, and so far the agency has received more than 60 letters of protest. More arrive daily. "The majority are against it," said Loren Kroenke, a Forest Service spokesman.

Resort officials say their environmental review concluded there would be no additional displacement of wildlife. But they hope to work with local environmental groups before introducing a new plan to the Forest Service sometime next fall, says Paul Witt, communications manager for Vail Associates.

*Jamie Murray