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Night lights: Francestown freaks out

Francestown has exacted its pound of flesh from Crotched Mountain Ski & Ride for having the nerve to improve the local economy by installing a high-speed chair lift and accompanying lights for late-night skiing — without asking permission first.

Crotched Mountain has drawn crowds of young skiers and snow boarders since it started its "Midnight Madness" option — ski until 3 a.m. on weekend nights from Dec. 27 through March 1. Skiers, boarders and locals who found work in a region where there is not much work to be found were thrilled. Francestown officials were not amused.

Crotched Mountain is providing much-needed economic stimulus, also fun. Francestown has another term for it: light pollution. The lights did not comply with the town's ordinance, they said, so they'd have to go, or the mountain could apply for a variance. Some in town did not want a variance because they did not want to see that light in the distance — on the 20 nights a year when they would be on from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m., when most of Francestown would be asleep.

Zoning Board Chairman Silas Little expressed Francestown's attitude when he called skiers people who were "stupid enough to put a pair of boards on your feet and go down a slope," as the Monadnock Ledger Transcript quoted him as saying at one of the public hearings.

Late last month the town issued a variance so one of the most popular businesses in the region could continue employing locals and attracting tourists to Bennington, Francestown and the surrounding communities. The variance requires Crotched Mountain to install visors over its highest lights. That might cause the mountain to put up more lights to cover areas where visibility on the slopes is reduced by the visors. But what's a little skier safety compared to the dangerous distant glow of ski slope lights when nearly everyone within sight is asleep?

Trace Adkins
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