Best of Summit County
Tommy Chong talks Chong Star: An interview with the original stonerJanuary 31, 2015 —
Tommy Chong is nothing short of an ageless stoner.
Sure, over the past decade or so Chong has battled graying hair and prostate cancer, reunited with Cheech Marin after years of bad blood, and served a nine-month stint in a federal prison. At 76 years old, the mellow half of Cheech and Chong is beginning to feel the full effects of a life well lived.
Yet Chong still talks and acts and thinks no differently than the character he played in “Up in Smoke” and “Nice Dreams.” Marijuana remains a constant, even when Chong isn’t smoking: After pleading guilty to a drug charge in 2003 — federal prosecutors linked him to a bong company, fittingly named Nice Dreams — he made the seemingly difficult decision to quit cold turkey, with no cannabis of any sort for three years.
For Chong, the pot-free stint was half-mandated, half-personal statement: If he can say no to a bowl, anyone can. And rather than back away from his pothead persona following a drug conviction, he embraced it fully — right in time for legal marijuana to enter the picture.
These days, Chong has a signature strain, Chong Star, grown and sold exclusively by Marisol Therapeutics in Pueblo. His face and name are even on The Chong Roller, a joint roller made by the Futurola company of Amsterdam. He may have served time for bongs, but the legitimate cannabis industry is now opening doors he never dreamed would appear.
The Summit Daily recently spoke with Chong from sunny Los Angeles — Cheech and Chong’s stomping grounds in the 1970s and ’80s — to hear his thoughts on Chong Star, the future of legal marijuana and why he would’ve been perfectly satisfied as a bong salesman.
Summit Daily: Let’s start at the top with Chong Star: After decades as a marijuana advocate, how does it feel to have a legal strain with your name on it?
Tommy Chong: It feels really good. It’s unreal, actually. I can’t even believe it myself. It not only feels good, it’s a good strain, too. It has a good taste.
So you would you buy it, even if it weren’t named Chong Star?
Absolutely. Well, you know, I’ll buy it if it has my name on it, but I’ll enjoy it no matter what. It has a nice combination of sativa and indica, so it’s not too mellow and not too speedy. But I enjoy everything I smoke, for the most part, even the swag weed. That at least gives you a basis for what’s good and what’s bad. You don’t know what good is until you’ve tried the swag.
When it was first released, Chong Star was a medical-only strain. Was that a conscious decision?
Yes, absolutely. My belief is that all pot use is medical. And the greatest thing about pot is that it’s not addictive. It’s voluntary — if you don’t want to smoke pot, you don’t have to. If alcoholics had the same control over their substance, it would be a much better world. It’s the same with heroin or anything: Once you have heroin, you have to use it again. Once you’re a heavy drinker, you have to drink.
You’ve been an advocate for marijuana since the Cheech and Chong films. In “Nice Dreams,” your character even gets free rolling papers for being a paper spokesman. Did you ever imagine you’d be doing the same for a legitimate, regulated industry?
I never really thought that far ahead. Well, I was never really an advocate until I went to jail, and when I got out I was put in that position. It wasn’t voluntary by any means — I would’ve been content to be a bong salesman.
I met (American cannabis activist) Jack Herrera and he turned me on to the intelligent side of things. Before that, I half-believed what everyone else believed, that it’s a drug that can lead to harder drugs. But once I started reading and seeing the politics behind what was happening, it changed my mind. And once I started reading, I couldn’t stop. You know how it gets with research.
And now marijuana is on everyone’s mind. Talk about legalization: Do you think the new marijuana industry is headed in the right direction?
(Laughs) It’s like an avalanche, you know? All the people who had the wrong approach and the wrong ideas are now running in front of the avalanche. It will find its own regulation, because you can’t regulate it, to be honest. You can regulate as much as you need to, but that’s really just to organize a way to make sure the product you’re smoking is what it should be. That’s really the only regulation you need.
As an old-school marijuana user — one of the originals — is it strange to see marijuana getting so much press and attention?
Once the industry gets up and going, like in Colorado, there’s nothing negative I’ve seen. You just look at the numbers — the arrest records, the crime rate, the other negative effects — and they just haven’t happened.
The only negatives I’ve seen are what’s been manufactured. Those are the things we have to clean up, and we will in time. From the beginning, marijuana laws were a very racist way to put brown people and black people into jail. We just need to get out of the way and let people live.
In fact, what we want to do is deregulate, get rid of the DEA and the anti-pot laws and the forfeiture laws. We need to get people out of jail who were put there because of pot. We want to help everyone, from the people who were fooled by it, who don’t know what it’s all about, to the people who were victimized.
If you’re going to cheat on Colorado, then you better make it good.
While we’ll always be rooting for the home team — after all, we’ll never pass up the chance to brag on our pristine, fluffy, Colorado powder — you might be surprised to learn that an international skiing vacation is more within reach than you think.Learn more »
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Not all Summit County biking involves extreme singletrack or treacherous mountain passes. If you’re looking for a leisurely cruise with beautiful views, take to the recreation paths around the Dillon Reservoir. The trails branch out in all directions, so you can rent a bike and plan a full-day sightseeing tour or a quick jaunt with the kids. “Two-thirds of the lake section of the path is virtually flat with no elevation gain, so it is a great ride for families, especially dads and moms who are pulling trailers or Tag-a-longs,” said Kevin Kahle, of Rebel Sports. “The ride itself is approximately 18 miles and usually takes, on average, about two to three hours, depending on your conditioning and how many times you stop for pictures.”Learn more »
The Frisco Nordic Center, located along the shore of Dillon Reservoir, offers groomed cross-country ski trails and snowshoe nature trails in the White River National Forest. The Nordic Center offers beautiful scenery and approximately 45 kilometers of beginning to expert terrain, groomed daily for classic and freestyle cross-country skiing. The area also offers a log lodge, complete with rentals and a snack bar. Group and private lessons are available for locals and visitors.Learn more »
Itching to wet a line but unsure if conditions are ripe for nymphing, dries or a hopper-dropper combo? With 20 professional guides on staff, Cutthroat Anglers, 400 Blue River Parkway in Silverthorne, has earned a reputation as the source for serious fly-fishing knowledge to ensure everyone from the novice angler to the seasoned trout slayer has a successful day on the water. “We pride ourselves on the customer service of our guides,” said Sean Dailey, general manager. “They’ll do anything to make sure people have a successful day — even if they don’t buy anything from us — and they have more collective knowledge than any other shop in the county.”Learn more »
The only public, 27-hole, Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course in the world, Breckenridge Golf Course provides a test for every level of golfer. Nestled at 9,324 feet above sea level, the course has been named the toughest mountain course by “Colorado Golfer” magazine, and its pro shop has earned a spot in “America’s 100 Best” by Golf Shop Operations. From the rolling greens to the variety of wildlife seen about the course, Breckenridge Golf Club has everything a golfer could want, including the Clubhouse Restaurant, which offers appetizers, meals and cocktails on a spacious deck.Learn more »
Just south of Breckenridge and a short jaunt off Highway 9, adventurous hikers can find one of the best intermediate day hikes in the county on the Mohawk Lakes Trail. The 7-mile loop meanders through historic mining ruins replete with abandoned ore cars before rewarding your climb upward with scenic waterfalls made by the Continental Falls spilling out into Lower Mohawk Lake. Continue onward to enjoy a victorious lunch accompanied by glorious views.Learn more »
Located on the idyllic Dillon Reservoir, Marina Park promises fun for all ages. Swings, slides and spinners are just part of what makes it a terrific play land. Bring lunch, and enjoy one of the many picnic areas or the Marina Park Pavilion, which can be rented for private functions. A stone’s throw from the Dillon Amphitheatre, Marina Park offers plenty of parking, in addition to restroom facilities. Nearby, the marina offers boat and stand-up paddleboard rentals, a restaurant, sailing lessons and more. If the roundabout spinner doesn’t make you dizzy, the views most certainly will.Learn more »
Where’s the best fishing hole? That’s a silly question. Unless you’re paying the big bucks for a guide, any true angler will tell you that a secret fishing spot is something one rarely reveals. But luckily in Summit County, the Blue River, Colorado River and Ten Mile Creek offer gold-medal waters packed with brown, brook and rainbow trout. So grab your waders and head to the closest river, and you might just find that special spot. And if not, you’ll still enjoy the scenery.Learn more »
Rainbow Park is a seven-acre park on Rainbow Drive containing a skateboard park, multi-purpose field, tennis courts, basketball court, sand volleyball courts, picnic shelters and public restrooms. Its bowl-shaped field, which lies slightly below the rest of the park, also serves as an amphitheater for spectator events and community festivals. But you can’t miss the playground, which has been voted Summit County’s best. It has lots of cool things to climb on and enjoy. Little ones will find things to do, as well as the older kids. It’s right next to a soccer field, so there is a lot of space to run around.Learn more »
Stroll down Main Street in Frisco and check out the KODI Rafting shop, located inside Rivers Clothing Company, at the corner of 5th & Main. KODI holds permits on all the nearby stretches of whitewater, from the adrenaline-pumping rapids of Clear Creek and the Arkansas River to lazy family floats on the Upper Colorado, and even the best of both worlds on the Blue River. There is an activity for everyone, including guided Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP) trips on the Upper Colorado as well as SUP rentals from their Frisco location. A unique offering of this locally owned Summit County company is the two-hour happy hour on Ten Mile Creek. No other outfitter offers a wet and wild trip through the heart of Frisco, that emerges into Dillon Reservoir and wraps up over Happy Hour treats at a local Frisco Restaurant. Led by professionally trained guides, KODI’s family friendly full-day, half-day and overnight trips will satisfy your thirst for Colorado adventure. Thank you for voting KODI Rafting ‘Best Rafting Company’ in Summit County 9 times. We hope to see you on the river soon!Learn more »
With its Imperial Express chairlift (the highest in North America), award-winning terrain parks and some of the most consistent grooming in the county, Breckenridge Ski Resort is the perfect mountain for any level of skier, whether you’re a never-ever or an extreme, big-mountain adrenaline seeker. The cafés, restaurants and shops give more than ample opportunity to rest up after a thigh-burning run. Last season, the biggest ski resort expansion in North America in more than a decade took place as Breckenridge Ski Resort added 543 acres on Peak 6 to its skiable terrain.Learn more »
Whatever numbers you look at — from the vertical drop to the number of trails or lifts — Breckenridge tops nearly every list in the county. With a vast array of terrain, the resort provides opportunities for beginners and elite riders alike, including a mix of groomers, glades and steeps. Breck’s award-winning parks have earned their reputation among the best in the world, featuring a variety of rails and jumps and the longest 22-foot halfpipe in the country. There’s also a healthy dose of nightlife in town to help you celebrate after a good day on the hill.Learn more »
Located in the heart of Summit County and on the route to and from Interstate 70, Dillon Dam Brewery is a great place to stop for après ski and avoid the crowds at the base of the mountains. “Our happy hour is right at the après ski time, from 3 to 6, so people come here on their way home from skiing before heading home to hit the hot tub,” said Kim Nix, front of house manager for the brewery. “We have a huge local crowd; everybody comes here after a powder day to eat and drink.”Learn more »
The Dillon Amphitheatre is undeniably a stunning venue by virtue of its location on the shores of Lake Dillon, but as the years pass, it continues to get better. Free acts range from funk and old-school rock to country and mellow jazz. This summer, the amphitheatre hosted dance lessons, with vendor proceeds benefiting local nonprofits, including a guest appearance by “Dancing with the Stars” runner-up Amy Purdy. Musical acts ranging from groovy Moses Jones to Hot Lunch’s smooth rhythm and blues entertained big crowds this summer, proving yet again that the amphitheater remains tops in the hearts of concertgoers across the county.Learn more »
From adventure movie premiers to live music, the Dillon Dam Brewery has late night covered in Summit County. The brewery is a hot spot for local and regional bands on Thursdays, as well as hosting a monthly open mic night with the incomparable Arnie J. Green. Bands range in genre from funk and jazz to hip-hop, rock and bluegrass, and with only a $5 cover for live music, it’s one of the best deals in the county. The Dam also features live trivia nights with Steven A and, of course, an amazing selection of craft beers, which also helped the spot win Best Brewpub and Best Après Ski.Learn more »
A Summit County restaurant not to be missed, especially with your special someone, Ski Tip Lodge was originally an 1800s stagecoach stop and, later, the first skier lodge for Arapahoe Basin in the 1940s. It is now known for its restaurant, which features a revolving, four-course menu and out-of-this-world desserts. What’s most unique, however, is the atmosphere. Cozy, unpretentious and creaky, Ski Tip is the ideal place to wine and dine your romantic date.Learn more »
Arnie J. Green has been a staple of funky soul and blues in Summit County for years. His powerful vocals and sweet guitar licks wake and shake up any bar scene or venue. He grew up in California, where his mother’s daily singing and the Bay Area’s secular and religious music inspired him to make music his life. Though he’s released two albums, he thrives on live shows, which have led him to perform with the likes of the Subdudes, Shakedown Street, Melvin Seals, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and many others.Learn more »
Dianne Trausch has lived in Summit County for 20 years. From her office in Breckenridge, Trausch helps people make sure their assets are covered, including home, auto, life, investment and commercial. She checks in on her clients at least once a year and gives them a friendly face to come and talk to. Her office assistant, Marie Hipple, also provides helpful and friendly service. “They know they can trust us and we are going to be with them from start to finish,” Trausch said of her clients. “If there’s a claim, we are going to stand behind them.”Learn more »
Customers in the know stop by 1st Bank on Saturday mornings for the doughnuts, coffee and orange juice, but they trust their money to this Colorado bank every day. Opened in 1963, and with convenient locations in Frisco, Breckenridge and Silverthorne, 1st Bank is the largest Colorado-based bank. 1st Bank provides savings and checking accounts, credit and loan products, online banking, business services and more, all with friendly service. To top it off, 1st Bank is heavily involved in the community, supporting local nonprofits and affordable-housing programs.Learn more »
It’s no surprise The Gentlemen’s Barbershop of Dillon won Best Barbershop award once again. Not content on resting on their laurels, the shop has recently undergone some upgrades. Earlier this year the owners renovated and expanded the shop, adding a third chair, which made room for a third barber. It’s allowed the shop to accept walk-ins for the first time. It’s kept the classic appeal while barbers Scott Lemme, Steve Martin and Joe Damonte continue to hone their craft, implement modern trends and provide top-notch haircuts along with the legendary straight razor shave. As they say at the shop, “it’s like the spa treatment for men.”Learn more »
Mountain Pride Cleaning and Restoration Inc., founded in 1989 by current owner/operator Mark Rusciolelli, CR, provides superior service for both commercial and residential cleaning needs. Recognized for its highly trained staff and prompt, reliable, quality service, Mountain Pride maintains the highest standards in the cleaning industry for restoring property damaged by fire, smoke, water, vandalism and other disaster. Mountain Pride Cleaning and Restoration is professionally certified through the Clean Trust and the Restoration Industry Association (RIA) and has remained at the forefront of advances in cleaning and restoration technology.Learn more »
Dr. Jeffrey Auth, of Auth Chiropractic & Vitality Center, said he sees patients of every age for a lot of different conditions other than just pain. “I know a lot of patients are motivated by their pain to go see the chiropractor, but my goal as a chiropractor is to achieve wellness naturally,” he said. “I’ve been in the county a long, long time.” Auth said the ability to be able to relate to his patients is important, being able to go out and see them at concerts or gatherings or skiing or riding bikes. “The community is so intertwined, and I feel very connected to the community,” Auth said. “There are a bunch of really qualified chiropractors here in Summit County, and I feel honored that my patients voted me as their favorite chiropractor.”Learn more »
Little Red Schoolhouse is a 32-year-old Montessori-based preschool and learning center that strives to create the feeling of a home environment at school. Acting in some ways very much like parents, teachers observe each individual toddler and infant, making sure his or her needs are met and that each child’s natural potential is stimulated. The teachers educate while providing a loving, caring and nurturing environment that allows children to grow and learn at their own pace.Learn more »
For as long as Serenity Spa & Salon has been open, it has swept all “Best of Summit” categories for spa treatments. From hair to nails to massage to skin, Serenity offers the ultimate in luxury, style, relaxation and beauty. A variety of top-quality products, unparalleled customer service and expert technicians make Serenity the No. 1 choice for spa experiences in Summit County.Learn more »
Dr. Erin Sain is a Summit High School graduate returning home after completing her dental education. She began pursuing her dental career during high school working after school and summers as an assistant for long-time dentist and mentor Jerry Peterson, DDS. After graduating from Summit High School, she attended the University of Colorado at Boulder, earning her undergraduate degree in biology and went on to earn her dental degree from the University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine. After earning her dental degree, she has returned to Summit County to practice dentistry in the mountains she loves, at Backcountry Family Dental. On the weekends, you will find her cruising the Nordic trails in the winter and tearing up the bike trails in the summer. She and her family are excited to return to the beauty of Summit County and become active members of the community. Of winning Best Of Summit, Sain said, “I would say that our reputation is due to not only me but mainly to the employees that work here, and I would give them most of the credit. We’ve got an awesome staff here and they do a great job of making patients feel comfortable and welcome.”Learn more »
Swan Mountain Women’s Center would like to congratulate Dr. Amy Tomlinson on her win of best doctor in Summit Daily’s “Best of Summit” contest. An OB/GYN with a true passion for women’s healthcare, Dr. Tomlinson worked at Swan Mountain Women’s Center from March 2012-April 2014. She and her husband recently took jobs in the neighborhing state of Wyoming, and are missed by both the patients of Summit County as well as the staff at Swan. Dr. Andrew Catron, Dr. Kathleen “Kacy” Cowie, and Laura Amedro, NP continue to provide a full spectrum of innovative, compassionate, and convenient obstetric and gynecological care at Swan Mountain Women’s Center, located at Farmer’s Korner in Breckenridge.Learn more »
Visits to the doctor nowadays can entail up to two hours in a waiting room, 15 minutes of paperwork and then 15 minutes, at best, with the doctor. But not so with optometrist Christena Ward. She said she and her staff always take extra time with patients to make sure they get the most out of their visit. “I try to spend time with each patient, educating them about their condition and any aspect of eye care that can help them,” she said. “We just try to make each of our patient’s experience a positive one.”Learn more »
Summit County’s best landscaper: Neils Lunceford, Inc.January 15, 2015 —
It’s not easy constructing landscapes in the High Country, with its steep building sites and poor soil quality, but Neils Lunceford has been doing so for residential and commercial clients in the Colorado Rocky Mountains for more than 30 years. With the experience and knowledge to offer creative and thoughtful solutions to landscaping challenges, Neils Lunceford helps clients select plants that will thrive in their gardens, despite the harsh climate. Professional landscape and irrigation installation teams help create colorful, lush gardens, both new and remodeled, to enhance properties and provide “long-lasting value and pleasure.”