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Saturday March 5, 2016

By Abby Hutmacher


Long before marijuana was made legal in Colorado, folks would flock to the state for the snow and the beautiful landscape. For over the course of a century, fresh powder and well-manicured runs have enticed many in Colorado to gear up and head out to the slopes for a little outdoor winter fun. The 2013-2014 season alone netted 12.6 million skier visits and accounted for roughly $4.8 billion in economic activity in the state.

Though it’s certainly true that many frequent the Colorado Rocky Mountains for fresh air and the abundant winter sports,  the fact that legal recreational marijuana exists within the state is without a doubt a huge contributor for the ski resorts.

But just because marijuana is legal in Colorado, doesn’t make it legal everywhere in the state. Many areas -- public places, businesses, outdoor parks, sporting arenas and federal land, for example -- prohibit marijuana consumption. Violations can follow with heavy penalties for the rule-breakers in the form of fines, expulsion and or product confiscation. Because most ski slopes are located on leased federal land, toking on the slopes is illegal, too.

That’s not to say visitors don't enjoy a little fresh green while enjoying some fresh white, it just means that discretion is highly advised, and one needs to be aware they are breaking the law.

Smoke Shacks

A few years back, “smoke shacks” were the go-to stoner hide-away on the slopes, but an “Inside Edition” report outed these secret shacks and prompted Vail Resorts and many others to destroy them. Leo’s shack in particular was so popular at Breckenridge it had grown to include a second floor with windows -- and even had its own Facebook page before it was destroyed -- in an attempt to curb the illegal toking inside.

Okay, so smoke shacks are now a bit sparse, so where else do people consume? I’m glad you asked.

Edibles are a great way to consume cannabis discretely, and the effects tend to last significantly longer, as well. Of course, if edibles aren’t your thing (or if you simply prefer traditional marijuana inhalation), then portable vaporizers can work wonders during your outdoor adventure. Just give them a full charge before heading up the lift and keep them in a secure location (like a zipped pocket) when not in use, so it can’t get lost then potentially found by the many families also on the mountain.

Some of the resorts feature hidden yurts within the trees. Though not nearly as elaborate as Leo’s Shack once was, these fully-enclosed (sometimes furnished and heated) tents can be rented for a night of winter camping or just used occasionally to block you and your friends from the view of near-by skiers.

Gondolas and Chairlifts

Finally, one of the most common locations for a quick toke are the ski lifts and gondolas. It's best to avoid gondolas for a few reasons. First, during offloading you're likely to get sniffed out by an employee, maybe they'll be cool about it but perhaps not. Also, the Forest Service has been issuing citations for consumption on gondolas on multiple occasions. Finally, non-consumers can be offended by the smell you left behind in the gondola, we need allies not enemies.

Chairlifts can be an option, but again if it's a crowded day you may want to be a bit more discreet and hit up the woods. When riding with a stranger, always ask before lighting up; if we want to promote a positive image of cannabis culture, it is important that we all remain as respectful with our cannabis consumption as possible. Of course, if you’ll be riding the lift with or around minors, hold off until the next time around.

Be Smart, Be Safe

Finally, if marijuana is going to be a part of your ski/snowboard day, then be sure to do so safely. Don’t go out the way Sonny Bono did because of a miscalculation in your consumption amount. Ask for help if need be and get to a safe location if you’ve over-consumed until you can ride it out.

If you rarely or never use cannabis, consume only a small amount to start (like 5 mg of edibles or a puff or two of green) and never exceed your ideal dose, especially when exerting yourself physically. Though marijuana can be a great addition to an exercise routine (and may even help you focus on your sweet moves on the half-pipe), it can also cause uncomfortable sensations when consumed in too high of a dose. Never put yourself of anyone else on the slopes at risk because of a simple miscalculation.

What are your thoughts about toking on the slopes? We’d love to hear them.


Abby Hutmacher Abby Hutmacher

Abby is a writer and founder of Cannabis Content, a marketplace designed to connect cannabis writers and creatives with businesses in the industry. She has been a professional cannabis writer since 2014 and regularly contributes to publications such as PotGuide and M&F Talent. She is also the Content Director at Fortuna Hemp, America’s leading feminized hemp seed bank. Follow Abby on Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin.

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