Alcohol, P-Tex don’t mix |

Alcohol, P-Tex don’t mix

The Ski Poll: Ever wonder how much rope patrollers string up at resorts on an average day? Does your ski boot chafe your ankle, and no one seems to be able to tell you why? Want to know why your favorite trail hasn’t opened this year?

Submit your snowsport-related questions to The Weekly Ski Poll, and we’ll find the answers for you. Send questions to, fax at (970) 668-0755 (ATTN: Ski Poll) or call (970) 668-3998, ext. 237. Make sure to include your name, address and phone number. We’ll select a different

question each week and run the answer on Friday.

This week’s question:

Police make arrests for driving under the influence, biking under the influence and boating under the influence. Drinking or smoking marijuana and hitting the slopes is popular with some people – is there a skiing under the influence charge?

Answer: Maybe it goes back to that historic, stereotypical image of the Saint Bernard rescue dog with the cask of brandy strapped around its neck: Alcohol and skiing have a connected past.

By dilating the blood vessels and bringing the blood’s warmth closer to the outer layers of skin, alcohol gives a person the impression that he’s warmer – although a person’s temperature doesn’t actually go up (in effect, you’ll get colder quicker because the increased surface area means you’ll lose heat faster). Thus, a nice dram of schnapps became the centerpiece for what we now call apres-ski.

At altitude, however, alcohol’s effects are amplified. Physicians will remind those sensitive to ethanol’s effects or with other medical conditions that a drink at alpine treeline can pack two or three times the punch as at sea level.

Though illegal, other intoxicating substances also are popular with snow-lovers. Many of us have smelled the odor of burnt marijuana wafting from lift chairs ahead of us or at least laughed at the term “ganja-la,” some people’s nickname for the closed uphill conveyance.

Surprisingly, though, alcohol and drugs aren’t identified as factors in many ski accidents, said Breckenridge Ski Patrol accident investigator Jim Levi. But that doesn’t make it safe, Levi said.

“It is just like driving,” he said. “Whenever you’re intoxicated and doing something like that, you’re recklessly endangering other folks. You could easily have things go wrong.”

Whenever there is an accident on the slopes, patrollers do ask people involved whether they’ve consumed any alcohol or drugs. Levi said the question has more of a medical purpose than a criminal one.

To answer the question directly (finally), yes, you can be charged with skiing under the influence. A provision in the Skier Safety Act, which covers most infractions for which police cite skiers and snowboarders, explicitly warns ski area visitors to not consume alcohol or drugs. The warning is also found on day lift tickets but not on season passes.

“Unlike with driving under the influence, there’s no limit,” said Summit County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Derek Woodman. “The law just says you violate it if your ability is impaired. If you can’t ski in control or safely get down the mountain, that’s all that’s needed to cite you.”

A Skier Safety Act violation is a class-2 petty offense and carries a $300 fine, “Which you will get,” Woodman said. “It’s one of the ones you can be arrested for.”

That doesn’t happen very often, Woodman said. He recalled only one citation for skiing under the influence last year.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

As a Summit Daily News reader, you make our work possible.

Now more than ever, your financial support is critical to help us keep our communities informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having on our residents and businesses. Every contribution, no matter the size, will make a difference.

Your donation will be used exclusively to support quality, local journalism.


Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User