Marijuana prohibited at Colorado ski resorts

Joseph Kitchin Philpott was an avid action sports enthusiast having experience in backcountry skier, surfer, mountain biker, paraglider. Philpott passed away Saturday afternoon in an avalanche on Cameron Pass, near Fort Collins, Colorado.
Joseph Kitchin Philpott was an avid action sports enthusiast having experience in backcountry skier, surfer, mountain biker, paraglider. Philpott passed away Saturday afternoon in an avalanche on Cameron Pass, near Fort Collins, Colorado.

To some skiers’ and snowboarders’ dismay, ski resorts do not anticipate a change in their anti-marijuana policies, despite the coming implementation of Amendment 64 in many Colorado cities.

“There’s still prohibitions on smoking it in public, and that would include every bit of the ski area top to bottom,” said Steve Hurlbert, public relations manager for Winter Park.

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Winter Park is not alone in this. Anyone at a ski resort in Colorado is considered to be in a public area, where smoking marijuana is illegal.

Not only are ski resorts considered a public space, but many of them are nestled in U.S. Forest Service land, which is federally controlled and funded. While state law allows the private consumption of marijuana by individuals over the age of 21, it remains illegal under federal law. This means the consumption of marijuana on all federal land is prohibited, according to Keystone Communications Manager, Laura Parquette.

“Smoking marijuana is still illegal in public as well as on Forest Service land and Vail Mountain and quite a bit of the area around Vail Mountain is Forest Service land,” said Liz Biebl, senior manager of communications for Vail Mountain. “I think that that’s not entirely clear to a lot of people.”

The confusion of the public regarding the laws set forth by Amendment 64 is a problem that resorts like Vail, Winter Park and Loveland are working to solve.

“We’ve realized there is probably some confusion out there regarding this amendment, so we’re actually going to great lengths to help inform our guests about this,” Biebl said.

Vail is countering this confusion with signage, posters in local shops and handouts specific to Amendment 64 which clearly state the resorts policy and rules, she said.

This “education first” approach has been taken by many resorts.

“Our policy, because there is a lot of confusion and because it is still uncharted territory, is more taking the stance of education rather than enforcement,” Hurlbert said. “It’s a hot topic and we’re just trying to get the word out.”

Winter Park is attempting to spread the word through emails and the media.

Loveland is waiting to make a huge educational push because illegal consumption of marijuana hasn’t been a huge issue thus far, according to John Sellers, marketing director for Loveland.

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“People caught smoking in public will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis, as they are with any on-mountain infractions,” Sellers said.

Enforcement and policy by resorts regarding the infraction of the consumption of marijuana is not expected to change.

“We’re not going to do more than what we’ve done, but we’re not going to do less than what we’ve done in terms of enforcing this,” Biebl said. “There’s not really a change as far as we’re concerned on the mountain.”

Possible consequences for riders committing any infraction could result in having their lift ticket or season pass revoked or suspended. In extreme cases, even criminal charges may be brought, according to Sellers.

Sellers said criminal charges and pass pulling will likely be unnecessary as long as the person is compliant when they are informed of the law and regulations regarding their infraction.

“If someone is consistently breaking the law or refuses to comply with the law then, I think, the enforcement is going to escalate,” Sellers said.

Winter Park, in the past, has stood by a less harsh policy.

“In the past we’ve asked people to ‘please put it out,’ and it’s been that simple. But we haven’t in the past revoked anybody’s pass for that kind of thing,” Hurlbert said.

Enforcement at most resorts includes all operation employees, lift employees, guest services and ski patrol. Ski patrol is mostly concerned with it being a safety issue, as those under the influence of any substance, including alcohol are considered to be impaired, according to Hulbert.

“A lot of people want to enjoy the mountain, and I think it’s only fair we enjoy it together,” Beibl said.

Collegian Green Beat Reporter Laren Cyphers can be reached at news@collegian.com.