NEDERLAND -- As Xcel Energy works to upgrade the main power line serving this mountain town, residents and business owners say the frequent -- and often unexpected -- outages that have resulted are leaving them out in the cold, literally.

Xcel has been working to upgrade the power line into Nederland for the past few months, and has conducted several planned Sunday outages since October to allow crews to safely work on the lines.

"The problem with rural towns is we can't re-direct power from other sources like we might do in Denver," Xcel spokesman Gabriel Romero said Tuesday, acknowledging the power problems facing Nederland.

In the meantime, though, residents say their electricity goes out once or twice a week for hours at a time, or sometimes it flickers on and off each day with no warning whatsoever.

"Sometimes it will happen after high winds and snowfall and you can kind of predict it," said Heather Pellouchoud, co-owner of Dots Diner On the Mountain. "But other times there is no good reason. Every seven or 10 days, in the middle of the day, you're out of power."

Pellouchoud and co-owner Mark Rose opened Dots Diner in December, and already they've lost two days of business because the power has gone out.

"It's hard enough to make a living up here in the winter. To have to send a room full of people out, that hurts," Rose said.

Rose said the problems were not limited to his business. His 80-year-old mother was living with him in Nederland, but she is on oxygen, and with the power outages, he had to fly her out to stay with his sister in Ohio.

"This is not about lights," he said. "For some people, this is life and death."

'Last fix will do the trick'

Rose said he called Xcel during the outages, but was always simply told by customer support to find somewhere warm and safe to stay until the power was restored.

"Where is a safe place?" Rose asked. "My home is supposed to be a safe place."

Nederland resident Sonia Holstrom also said she calls during every outage, but also has gotten nowhere with Xcel.

"They just laughed at a discount or a credit or anything," she said. "People in the town are really upset and frustrated. There is no explanation or any plan for having the repairs done."

Xcel's Romero said that after one more planned outage in the next few weeks, the town should see most of the power issues solved.

"This last fix will do the trick, we hope," Romero said.

Rose questioned the timing of the work, and said it should have waited until after the cold and windy winter months. He said he has asked the town's Board of Trustees to consider other options aside from Xcel, pointing out nearby Gilpin County is served by United Power.

"Their excuses are unsatisfactory," he said. "I considered asking people to stop paying their bills, since the only way get them to listen is to hit them in the pocketbook. But Colorado doesn't have any laws saying they are not allowed to shut down during winter months, so basically they could shut us down and freeze us all out."

'A lot of people are used to it now'

Steve Chancey used to live in Alaska before moving to Nederland, so he is a little more tolerant of the cold than others, even when the temperature during a recent outage at his home -- which does not have a wood stove -- hit 20 below.

"I guess I have thicker skin than other people," he said. "I just got under some blankets."

But even Chancey said the power outages are frustrating.

"You're going to make dinner, then all of a sudden the power goes out," he said. "One time we were watching a football game over at Backcountry Pizza and the power went out. We didn't know if we should go home or if the power would come back.

"It was off for five hours."

Pellouchoud said that, at this point, some residents she has overheard in the diner have become used to the outages. But she said that doesn't mean they should have to tolerate them.

"A lot of people are used to it now, like this is what mountain life is," she said. "But it really isn't."

Contact Camera Staff Writer Mitchell Byars at 303-473-1329, byarsm@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/mitchellbyars.