Leadership

Colorado Ski Resorts: Marijuana Use on the Slopes Still Isn’t OK

By Ernie Smith / Dec 2, 2013 (iStock/Thinkstock)

The state has legalized marijuana possession and will allow for retail sales in January, but a ski industry trade group is reminding tourists that the legalization has limits.

Colorado is headed for uncharted territory.

Starting January 1, retail stores in the state will be permitted by law to sell marijuana for recreational use, something no other state allows.

But an association that represents 21 ski resorts—part of what it says is a $3 billion-a-year tourism industry for Colorado—has a warning for those looking to smoke on the slopes: Doing it in public is still against the law.

The situation: Many of the communities where the state’s largest ski resorts are located—Aspen and Telluride among them—are home to large contingents of voters who in November 2012 helped pass Amendment 64, which legalizes possession of an ounce of marijuana. However, Colorado Ski Country USA, the resort trade association, is concerned that people openly smoking pot on the trails could drive away families looking for a fun getaway. “We’re getting the word out that we have a lot of things to offer guests, but smoking marijuana is not one of them,” spokeswoman Jennifer Rudolph told the Associated Press. “We have so much to offer our guests that outweigh the legality of possession of marijuana.”

The message: In recent messaging, the trade association has emphasized that although possession is legal, smoking in public is not. And since Colorado’s ski resorts are public places, many located on federal or public land, the group is working to underline that point. “Education is key,” the association stated in a recent blog post. “There is no reason guests should expect to be able to smoke marijuana at a ski resort. Just like knowing the weather and snow conditions before heading out to ski, knowing the law about smoking marijuana is important too. Resorts are working with their towns, chambers of commerce, community leaders, and trade association to inform locals and visitors alike of the law surrounding smoking marijuana.” If caught smoking in public, skiers may lose their resort passes.

The alternative: For its part, Colorado Green Tours, a Denver-based travel agency that plans cannabis-themed tours to ski areas, told the AP that it will respect the law and instruct its customers to smoke in private. That said, skiers looking to smoke on the trail do have an option: Though not officially sanctioned, so-called smoke shacks, old cabins in the woods that smokers visit to take a puff in private, are not unheard of—even at some resorts.

Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now and a former newspaper guy. More »

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