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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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No toking on the slopes: Ski resorts still discourage cannabis use

In spite of more legalization and acceptance, smoking pot and skiing remains one of those “don’t ask, don’t tell” activities. (Getty Images)
In spite of more legalization and acceptance, smoking pot and skiing remains one of those “don’t ask, don’t tell” activities. (Getty Images)
By Tracy Damon EVERCANNABIS Correspondent

In spite of more legalization and acceptance, smoking pot and skiing remains one of those “don’t ask, don’t tell” activities.

People getting high in tandem skiing or snowboarding has been happening since the beginning of the sport. Consuming marijuana can impair concentation and coordination, but it’s not uncommon in the snowbound community to unwind responsibly with a bowl after a day on the slopes. And while you may detect that familar aroma around more than a few skiiers, most ski resorts turn a blind eye to it unless it causes problems.

Despite recreational marijuana use being legal in Washington, public consumption still is a crime, which means it isn’t officially welcome at Pacific Northwest ski resorts. Some, however, may be a little more tolerant than others, but it’s more of an unofficial policy.

Here are the individual rules and perspectives from some resorts around the Inland Northwest – both Washington and Idaho.

Mount Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park

The location differs from other area ski resorts in that it isn’t profit-driven. While skiing has been available on Mt. Spokane since the 1930s, the resort was incorporated as a non-profit organization in 1997. It is also located on public, versus private, property.

“We’re a little different because we’re a non-profit 501©3 in a state park,” said Jodi Kayler, assistant general manager and marketing director. “So all marijuana is forbidden on state park land. We follow all state park rules.”

According to the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission, it is illegal to use recreational marijuana in state parks. Medical marijuana has a little more flexibility: It may be consumed in state parks as long as the user is outside of public view and can provide a medical marijuana card if asked. That doesn’t apply to park structures, so if you rent a cabin or yurt and get caught smoking cannabis in it, you could be in trouble.

49 Degrees North Mountain Resort

While this resort is a for-profit business, it is similar to Mt. Spokane in that it is located on public property and therefore has a zero tolerance policy for the use of marijuana.

“We operate on U.S. Forest Service land and are subject to their rules/guidelines,” wrote Emily McDaniel, director of marketing and communications, in an email. “Being federal land, federal laws supersede state laws, and currently marijuana possession or use is still a federal crime under most circumstances, including recreational use.”

The United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service website elaborates: “The U.S. Forest Service will continue to enforce and investigate the use, growing, transport and possession of marijuana on National Forests as we have in the past because it is illegal.”

Schweitzer Mountain Resort

Welcome to Idaho, which has strong penalties for any kind of cannabis.

“State law is that it’s illegal,” said Dig Chismer, marketing manager for the Sandpoint location. “I don’t know that we’ve noticed more incidents (of marijuana use since it was legalized in neighboring Washington State), but it has changed the way we interact with new staff, because many staff members live in Washington. During employee orientation, we are very clear that it may be legal there, but it’s not here.”

Schweitzer’s website lists multiple things lift privileges can be revoked for, including reckless skiing and snowboarding caused by “Disorderly conduct, loud or abusive language, drunkenness, use of illegal drugs, throwing trash or other objects from the lift.”

While Chismer says that Ski Patrol members will take action against people who do display such behavior, or put themselves or others at risk, they are not law enforcement officers and do not actively look for people using cannabis at the resort.

Silver Mountain Resort

Also located in North Idaho, where marijuana is still considered a controlled substance, the Kellogg ski area’s website states, “No smoking, including e-cigs, is permitted.” In addition to tobacco, this rules out joints and vape pens.

Mission Ridge Ski and Board Resort

Outside of Wenatchee, on the eastern side of the Cascade Mountains, Mission Ridge spans public lands managed by three separate agencies, the U.S. Forest Service, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the Washington State Department of Natural Resources. With the USFS being a federal agency, pot is definitely not welcome or tolerated.

So marijuana is pretty much frowned upon across the board at Washington and Idaho ski resorts, even though its usage is frequently tied to the culture of skiing and snowboarding. In the end, ski resort staff say it boils down to being respectful – and skiers for the most part always are – so, as long as you don’t give them a reason, they won’t ask if you don’t tell.

Tracy Damon is a Spokane-based freelancer who has been writing professionally for 20 years. She has been covering i502 issues since recreational cannabis became legal in Washington.
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