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Can You Ski High? Is It Safe?

man poses in his skiing attire with background of snowy mountains

The spread of recreational marijuana legalization — particularly in states that are snowy sports destinations — may have you curious about weed and skiing. Is it safe? Are you even allowed to ski high?

So far, no research specifically looks at skiing and cannabis, but some experts suggest it’s safer than drinking alcohol and hitting the slopes. With that said, because most ski resorts are on public land and cannabis is federally illegal, it’s against the law to consume it on the mountain. So, you can technically ski high, but it’s illegal to consume marijuana in many popular ski destinations.

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Is Skiing High Safe?

Skiers concerned about smoking weed, unfortunately, have little research to go on when it comes to safety. Science tells us that marijuana use can impair coordination and motor skills, which can make already challenging ski slopes more dangerous.

That said, alcohol is a big part of the après-ski culture and impairs motor control just as much, if not more, than marijuana. Research suggests that when used in similar doses, alcohol impairs cognitive functions like controlled thinking, whereas cannabis impairs automatic cognition (unconscious processing).

Smoking weed can also cause breathing issues, which can be hazardous for high-altitude snow sports. While the altitude won’t make you higher, THC products can easily make you feel light-headed and dizzy.

As such, state laws — like the Colorado Ski Safety Act — are in place to prohibit individuals from riding chairlifts or going down slopes while under the influence of alcohol, cannabis, or other controlled substances.

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Tips for Mixing Cannabis and Skiing

If you’re looking to incorporate cannabis into your weekend getaway to the ski slopes, here are some health and safety tips to keep in mind:

  • Stay hydrated. Cannabis is dehydrating, so remember to drink plenty of liquids before and after a long day on the mountain.
  • Smoke after your ski day. Since it’s technically illegal to consume cannabis on public land — including most ski resorts and national parks — it might be safer to enjoy it after your runs.
  • Try a sativa. The last thing you want when you go skiing is to feel sleepy. Cannabis sativa is often a good choice; pick a strain that’s sativa-leaning to get you energized and help you focus. After skiing, opt for a relaxing cultivar with pain-relief properties to promote healing and prevent soreness.
  • Avoid smoking. Since smoking compromises lung capacity (which you’ll need when exercising all day), try a smokeless consumption method like vaping, edibles, or tinctures.
  • Understand the local laws. Most states prohibit consuming cannabis on public property. Others prohibit marijuana use even off the slopes in nearby hotels. It’s crucial to research local regulations where you’re staying before you take any risks.

5 Cannabis-Friendly Ski Resorts

Specific resorts have different rules surrounding marijuana use on private property. While all prohibit use on the slopes by federal law, some places are a bit more 420-friendly than others.

Here are some of the most friendly locations for enjoying cannabis and snow activities.

1. Telluride, Colorado

Telluride is one of Colorado’s most welcoming cannabis hubs and ski destinations. The city is framed by beautiful mountaintops that promise abundant powder, and there are multiple cannabis dispensaries ready to serve new and returning clientele.

Depending on the time of the season, local businesses host cannabis and skiing-related events. There’s also plenty of shopping, dining, and beautiful places to stay.

2. Lake Tahoe, California

Both California and Nevada have legalized recreational cannabis, though the rules surrounding consumption prohibit marijuana use in public places or outside of private homes.

Some places allow Lake Tahoe visitors to consume cannabis (depending on landlord approval), so checking with your host is essential. Additionally, it’s illegal to transport cannabis over state lines, so if you buy weed in California, don’t take it back to your hotel in Nevada.

3. Big Sky, Montana

In 2022, Montana joined the list of states that legalized recreational or adult-use dispensaries. This has put ski destination towns like Big Sky on the map for weed-friendly slopes. Smoking and possessing cannabis is permitted, but because most parks are still on federal land, it’s best to use it before or after hitting the powder.

4. Bend, Oregon

Bend and the nearby Mt. Bachelor are among Oregon’s most popular ski and cannabis tourism areas. Oregon has long welcomed recreational marijuana use, and there are countless dispensaries to stop at on the way to the mountain.

5. Breckenridge, Colorado

Breckenridge is another region treasured for its ample skiing and snowsport opportunities. The city bans public consumption — including on the Breckenridge Ski Resort’s entire property.

However, there are plenty of cannabis-friendly places to stay, and dispensaries nearby can supply you with your choice of strain. The nearby town of Dillon is also cannabis-friendly, with great skiing. In 2020, the town even allowed dispensaries to open marijuana lounges so customers could enjoy purchases on-site.

The Bottom Line

Skiing while high is technically possible, but it may be more trouble than it’s worth. Most ski resorts ban the use of marijuana on the slopes, even in states where weed is recreationally legal. And, while it may be safer to ski high than to ski drunk, the safest way to ski is sober. Consider consuming cannabis after you ski to unwind and soothe those tired muscles.

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