It’s spring break time and the mountains are covered in snow. For many locals and visitors this means skiing and snowboarding, drinking and recreational marijuana. We want to remind you that while these activities are perfectly legal under the correct circumstances, they are illegal and dangerous when combined.
Let us be clear: It is not legal to ski or snowboard while drunk or high in Colorado.
Surprised? It’s understandable. The sheer number of microbreweries, bars, and even pot shops in some ski towns could leave anyone confused. Drinking is part of mountain culture, and there is nothing wrong with that. Many skiiers look forward to kicking back with a hard apple cider, warming up with a hot toddy, or trading stories over beers.
It’s when the drinking happens before (or during!) skiing that legal, ethical, and physical risks multiply exponentially. Skiing requires split-second decisions, good balance, fast reflexes. Dial those back, and you are turning yourself into a hazard.
Don’t Put Yourself at Risk
Drunk skiing puts you at risk of civil or criminal liability for any injuries you cause. The Colorado Ski Safety Act makes it illegal to ski, snowboard, or ride a chairlift while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Doing so is punishable by a $1000 fine. However, if you crash into someone while skiing drunk your costs are likely to be much higher. People who are injured by drunk, high, or otherwise negligent skiiers can recover compensation for current and future medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more.
If you drink at a ski resort, remember:
- Never drink immediately before or during skiing.
- Limit your alcohol consumption on evenings before skiing. Skiing with a hangover is very dangerous, too.
- Remember that the effects of alcohol are 1.5 to 3.0 times more potent at high altitudes. One drink may be plenty. Be aware of how you feel.
Colorado’s “State Plant” and the Law
Now, regarding our “state plant.” If you choose to get high at a ski area, remember that you must do so in a private space. Smoking pot in Colorado is not legal in public places which includes restaurants, parking lots, airports, parks, and ski slopes. Most hotels have banned the drug as well. Colorado also has an open-container law that prohibits the smoking of marijuana in private vehicles. Basically, if you want to smoke pot in a Colorado ski area, you need to plan ahead and make sure your accommodations allow it.
And that’s just to be in compliance with Colorado state law. Importantly, most ski areas rent mountain land from the U.S. government, and federal laws regarding the consumption of marijuana apply on federal land. In other words, if you are under the influence of marijuana while skiing on federally-owed slopes, Colorado’s friendly marijuana laws will not be able to protect you. The typical federal penalty for marijuana use is very severe: a $5000 fine and 3 years in prison.
The Bottom Line
Skiing provides plenty of thrills, excitement, and danger without adding chemical impairment to the mix. Be kind to yourself and others. Don’t drink and ski!
Article by Molly Fuscher, Paralegal