January unofficially marks the beginning of the “busy” season for many of Colorado’s Ski resorts. Tourists are wrapping up their holiday vacations, and the snowy conditions warrant a flock of locals to the slopes. The thrill of floating through knee-deep powder or cruising down a favorite groomer alone can be enough for most, but some choose to take the opportunity to add marijuana to the experience. A tasty edible, a subtle hit on the vape, or just a fat rip off the pipe are just a few ways that us Coloradans may consider to get high during our next ski or snowboard experience. Since the passing of Amendment 64, however, the recreational use of marijuana on the slopes of Colorado’s most popular resorts has been a highly contested issue. Legality, safety, and general resort experience are just a few of the issues fought over by local smokers and the governing bodies of the resorts.
Regardless of what rules and regulations are in place, skiers and snowboarders will still continue to hit the slopes high. So, here are a few things you should know to help keep you (and others) safe and out of trouble when you hit the slopes.
First off, it’s important to know that most resorts reside on National Forest land. The possession and consumption of marijuana on federal land is illegal. While some resort employees may look the other way, the U.S. Forest Service will not, issuing fines of up to $5,000 and six months in jail. Many Colorado resorts share the same rules. Consumption of marijuana products on resort property in many cases is grounds for suspension of your lift pass, removal from the resort, and the potential of fines issued by the Forest Service.
As tempting as is may seem to do, don’t hotbox the Gondola. The lifts are the property of the resort, and while you might feel like a boss emerging from a cloud of thick smoke, the lifts and resort employees certainly won’t think you are. This is an easy way to get yourself into trouble. It may seem obvious, but don’t smoke in the lift lines either. It is very unlikely that all of the people in your immediate surroundings will want to join you in getting high. Not to mention that smoking in the lift lines is simply a dumb way to get you into serious trouble.
Smoke Shacks were, at one time a popular, “off-site” destination to get high and avoid getting caught. Located outside of the resort boundaries, or buried deep in the trees, smoke shacks were a popular destination for those in-the-know to get high before returning to the slopes to finish out the day. These “secret” shacks are not as much of a secret anymore. The Forest Service and resort officials have destroyed many in recent years. Breckenridge alone blew up (yes blew up with dynamite) six of these mythical huts. However, many do still exist and can be found by buddying up with the right local guides.
Safety is the next major concern for the resorts. With many varying levels of skiers and snowboarders on the slopes, Ski Patrol is always on the lookout for reckless behavior. Minor infractions, like speeding or cutting across the slopes, are cause for stern warnings. Repeat offenders and individuals that put others at risk are subject to harsher consequences. Worse, if you are stopped and in possession of marijuana products or believed to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you will likely write your sentence to a suspended pass, fines and a complete ban from the resort altogether.
A simple solution is to not provide a reason for Ski Patrol to stop you. Follow the resort rules and responsibility codes. Here’s an easy one. You know those big orange signs and gates that say, “SLOW?” That means slow down and take your time navigating these sections. Speed zones are typically in areas where there is a confluence of trails, a lift zone, or crowded areas. Cruising through these congested areas at a high rate of speed can be dangerous if you aren’t able to react quickly.
Yield to the downhill skier. It sucks, but if you are passing by someone nearby and he or she cuts in front of you, you are still at fault for any accident. On a crowded slope, it’s best to pick a line and stick with it. Take a note of any novice skiers or snowboarders carving their way across the entire run and avoid them. It may also be tempting to go flying over a Catwalk, but before you do, take note of what’s below it and what might be coming down it.
Don’t stop and sit down in the middle of a run. If you have to stop to wait for someone, adjust a piece of equipment, or catch your breath, pick a spot that is out of the way of the general flow of traffic and visible to others higher on the trail.
Last, don’t be a douchebag. Remember that you are not the only one there to have a good time, so don’t be the person that ruins it for someone else. Be aware and respect others out there on the slopes.
Skiing and snowboarding while high can be a ton of fun, but there is an inherent risk associated with it. Know what the consequences of getting caught are before you decide to smoke or take down that edible. Be safe and know your limitations. If you can’t comfortably navigate the mountain while high, take a break to come down. The mountains are full of love. So take care and love them back.