BRECKENRIDGE - The issue of skiing and snowboarding mixed with marijuana has been an contention for years. But, with the legalization of pot, officials at some of the most popular ski areas in the Colorado want to send a strong message.
"The consumption and possession of marijuana is illegal on federal land and absolutely illegal at our ski resort," said Kristen Stewart, senior communications manager of Breckenridge Ski Area.
Vail Resorts operates Vail, Beaver Creek, Keystone, and Breckenridge. Over the past few weeks, crews from Vail resorts worked with the U.S. Forest Service to find and destroy six illegal structures known as "smoke shacks" tucked away in the forest. These places are where people have gathered to smoke marijuana before heading back out onto the slopes.
"For us, it's really important that we get them down as safely and as quickly as possible," Stewart said.
One of the smoke shacks had been there for so long, it grew to be two stories tall, complete with windows and multiple rooms. It even had its own Facebook page. Last week, it was destroyed with explosives.
"I didn't even know that those existed," Minnesota skier Angie Pilgrim said.
Pilgrim is among a group of skiers and snowboarders who applaud what Vail Resorts and the USFS are doing.
"I think it makes a lot of sense," Pilgrim said. "We all need to be safe and responsible out there, watch out for each other. I think it's a good idea."
Omar Martino is skiing with his family at Breckenridge. He says skiers and snowboarders who are stoned are a serious worry.
"If somebody hits me, I can take it, but if somebody hits my son or I have a daughter who is 6 years old, it's always a concern," Martino said. "I'm always watching and making sure they're safe."
Some believe the ski resorts are going too far. New this year at all Vail Resorts, signs are posted at the chairlifts reminding people that smoking pot while on the mountain is illegal.
"Personally, I think it's OK," Michigan snowboarder Tyler Jasin said. "It makes me more concentrated. I feel like I ride better."
Stewart worries about people like Jasin.
"Some people have taken the stance that it's a free for all or misunderstood the law," Stewart said.
Jasin says he just believes in his own abilities even while stoned.
"Some people can function properly off it. Some people can't, so it's not for everybody," Jasin said. "I feel like those who can [handle pot], should be able to [use it at ski resorts]."
At this moment, Stewart says all of the known smoke shacks have been removed. But, she knows this fight will not end soon.
"Unfortunately people go back in and rebuild them. It's an ongoing process for us," Stewart said.
She adds that this renewed push should make a difference for anyone wanting to come to Colorado to ski or snowboard safely without worrying about pot.
"There's no reason to be afraid to come Colorado for a ski vacation specifically because of the passage of Amendment 64," Stewart said. "It is still illegal to smoke it in public."