Two weeks into the Colorado ski season, slopes have split in response to skiers and snowboarders toking on the hill.
Marijuana smokers could lose their ski passes or receive an indifferent shrug depending on where they hit the slopes this winter. For some, the different policies could add to the confusion that has followed Colorado's legalization of recreational pot.
As in real estate, location is everything.
"One resort, like A-Basin, may ask them to leave, the next may call law enforcement," said Dave Byrd, director of risk and regulatory affairs at the National Ski Areas Association. "That is going to vary a little bit, how they do that."
Two weeks ago, Arapahoe Basin Chief Operating Officer Alan Henceroth revoked two visitors' passes after he found them smoking on the slopes. He wrote a blog post on the incident, which served as a reminder that smoking pot in public — or on public lands — remains illegal.
"For the people who like to use it, that is awesome, but it's not legal to use it in public," Henceroth said.
Amendment 64 does not allow marijuana consumption "conducted openly and publicly or in a manner that endangers others."
"We're one of those public places," Henceroth said.
Arapahoe Basin is one of 22 Colorado ski areas that leases federal land from the U.S. Forest Service on five-year special use permits. Despite legalization in Colorado and Washington, marijuana remains illegal under federal law and is therefore illegal on those lands, whether or not it is consumed in public. The Forest Service said recent legalization should have no effect on marijuana tolerance at ski areas.
"Not every year would this be as emphatic or as big of a topic as it is now," said Paul Cruz, regional winter sports coordinator for the Forest Service in Colorado.
Cruz sent a reminder of the federal law to recreation permit coordinators last week.
"There really is no change in forest special use permits because it was illegal before, and it's still illegal," said Chris Strebig, communications director for the Forest Service in Colorado.
At Wolf Creek Ski Area, officials decided last year not to pursue marijuana violations if users do not pose a safety risk and are discreet.
"Our patrol's job is not to bird-dog everybody when they smell marijuana," said Wolf Creek CEO Davey Pitcher.
The ski area, which opened ahead of schedule on Oct. 19, has had no issues related to marijuana since a federal officer caught an employee with a medical marijuana license smoking at the top of a ski line last winter, Pitcher said. Unless reckless skiing becomes an issue, Wolf Creek's 400 seasonal staff will leave it to Forest Service officers to enforce the law. Citations for public consumption carry a minimum $250 fine and possible court summons, and a maximum fine of $5,000 and six months in jail.
"It's their job, not ours, to enforce that," Pitcher said. "They are up here quite often. They ski around. Sometimes they ski around undercover."
Cruz agreed that the roles are clear.
"It's not their job to enforce federal regulations," Cruz said. "It's their job to inform."
Melanie Mills, president and CEO of Colorado Ski Country USA, said the trade association has begun posting signs on the slopes and warnings on social media that marijuana use remains illegal.
Colorado Ski Country USA memberships will not be revoked because of marijuana use at member sites, Mills said.
Never mind the issue of enforcement: Byrd said there is a more obvious question about marijuana and skiing.
"I don't know why you would want to use it while you're skiing," Byrd said. "Why do you need it?"
Alison Noon: 303-954-1223, firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/alisonnoon