Marijuana legalization wasn't the reason for record ski season, industry rep says

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Dustin Schaefer/Loveland Ski Area
At the start of the 2013-2014 ski season, marijuana seemed like it might be a bigger story than moguls, what with some snowbirds threatening to stay away from Colorado if they were subjected to legal pot, a ski-area executive pledging to yank lift tickets from public tokers, a Forest Service rep saying pot enforcement at resorts on federal land was a priority and the destruction of a venerable smoke shack after it was featured on Inside Edition.

In the end, though, Colorado experienced a record ski season -- and one industry rep doubts that weed had anything to do with it.

"The effect of the new marijuana law on the ski industry was the PR event of the season and the operational non-event of the season," says Jennifer Rudolph, spokeswoman for Colorado Ski Country USA, which represents the majority of ski resorts in the state -- 21 at last count. "There was a lot of talk about it, but the ski areas didn't really see much in terms of action."

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A map showing Colorado Ski Country USA resorts.
They were busy places otherwise. The organization estimates that 12.6 million skiers took to the slopes during the most recent season -- the best number ever recorded in Colorado. This number, which includes 7.1 million folks at CSCUSA resorts, represents a 10 percent boost over last season's total and an 8 percent increase when measured against the average during the past five years.

The Rocky Mountain area in general did well this season, growing by 6.4 percent -- an improvement likely fueled in part to sub-par conditions in the Pacific region, portions of which were impacted by drought. But Colorado's pace was quicker. "We saw a bump in California visitation," Rudolph points out. "Colorado has always been a market for Californians to come and ski, and we saw a bit of an increase in that this year. But it was a very positive season in a variety of categories, from in-state to out-of-state."

Once tourists got here, they didn't cause many pot-related problems, Rudolph notes. In her words, "It was very much business as usual, because people were really focused on the snow. That's what the story of the season was really all about."

The snowfall amounts didn't set any new marks, but they represented a significant improvement over the past couple of years and may have fueled pent-up demand. "Snow is certainly the biggest driver of skier visits," Rudolph acknowledges. "It trumps a bad economy, it trumps war, it trumps gas prices."

What about the January 1 legalization of limited marijuana use and possession by adults age 21 and over?

"We don't know if that had an impact or not," Rudolph says -- and there are no current plans to conduct surveys designed to find out the answer.

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A photo of Leo's Smoke Shack in Breckenridge before it was destroyed.
Rudolph observed the hubbub over Leo's Smoke Shack, a complex that had been around for years before the aforementioned Inside Edition report prompted its dismantling. But the incident took place at Breckenridge, which isn't a CSCUSA resort, and she's unaware of anything similar happening at ski areas that are members of her organization.

She admits that "we honestly didn't know what to expect" in regard to weed when the season got underway, "but we were prepared to educate skiers and visitors about what they should expect -- and we think the education effort played out, because there weren't many incidents involving marijuana happening at our resorts."

In regard to next year, Rudolph says resort managers "are being flexible to see how this plays out. We're watching what the marijuana industry is doing and how it's figuring things out. And we'll be ready to address them when the next ski season rolls around."

Otherwise, she thinks the impact of marijuana on ski areas "didn't live up to the hype."

Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.

More from our Marijuana archive circa February 26: "Photos: Leo's Smoke Shack at Breckenridge destroyed after Inside Edition report."

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23 comments
melsent
melsent

Marijuana is frying many brains. People need to get off the pot smoking and get the good things in life. http://ow.ly/yd0Yy

Rob Timlin
Rob Timlin

What's next "Traffic jam due to Pot Tourism, or commuters? You decide!"

Stephen Felt
Stephen Felt

Marihuana Definitely had a lot to do with it.

John Elliott
John Elliott

Um...maybe it had to do with the incredible and consistent snowfall? Jesus fucking christ in a bucket, get off the weed trip already...you're like a bunch of 15 year olds giggling like morons because you're toking up in your parents' basement...

Zac Cheeko
Zac Cheeko

Who cares,can't wait to shred this Sunday one last time

Tim Hauger
Tim Hauger

Nah it was Vail buying every resort in the country with colorado earned money. That is what brings em all in...

Maggie Thompson
Maggie Thompson

It was all the snow, plus the fact that the West coast didn't get enough.

Michael Eric
Michael Eric

Ummmm. Maybe it was the AMAZING snow ALL season that did it????

Dustin Hoeft
Dustin Hoeft

It helped a little but tahoe having a crappy year and us having a great year is the main reason

Tim Tindle
Tim Tindle

Probably did not hurt. Plus gays, god and guns!

Mike Duran
Mike Duran

Oh no...thousands of 18-32 year olds, whos popular culture looks very positively at cannabis and its use, didnt take advantage of the fact that the state where they enjoy their winter recreation also legalized cannabis. Nooooo...all these are just coincidences...

Adam Caimi
Adam Caimi

As someone who worked in the industry last season, I can tell you he is wrong.

Brian Myers
Brian Myers

Sorry to break it to you Westword. But, pot is NOT the reason for everything good in Colorado. I'm no expert on everything like your paper is. But I would guess the reason for the record skier season, was because of Amazing snow fall this year

OgCommercecitychris Flores
OgCommercecitychris Flores

Nope ..!! Weed gets only the negative rap .of course it did the whole state saw a huge increase in tourism ..

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