You have to know someone to show you these places — and after that, you shouldn't show them to everyone else you know. It's like a stoner version of the first rule of Fight Club: You do not talk about the location of the smoke shacks.

*****

Considering that Breckenridge, the town, has legalized marijuana, it's not surprising to learn that Breckenridge mountain is home to nearly a dozen smoke shacks that are known the world over. High Country Caregiver, a frequent Westword commenter on all subjects marijuana-related, is also an expert on Breckenridge's many smoke shacks, huts and tepees. Caregiver — who asked that his real identity not be revealed — worked for the ski area for six years as a market-research manager.

The legendary, and lavish, Leo's in Breckenridge.
The legendary, and lavish, Leo's in Breckenridge.
The well-disguised No Fat Chicks at Winter Park.
The well-disguised No Fat Chicks at Winter Park.

Details

VIDEO: Go inside a smoke shack.



As part of our coverage, we sent the Mile Highs and Lows camera crew (i.e., me and my iPhone) to the high country to get some video footage.

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Caregiver probably wouldn't have made it in Fight Club: On his website, he lists the GPS coordinates of seven of Breck's most historic huts, including the notorious Leo's Smoke Shack. That two-story shack has graced the pages of numerous ski magazines and has been the subject of enough ski forums that tourists occasionally ask to see it. But Caregiver doesn't apologize for spreading the word. "All I can say in my defense is people come to ski Breckenridge specifically to find the smoke shacks, and it's a great destination to ski and enjoy cannabis at the same time," he says, showing his skills at MMJ market research. "The reality of ski patrol, cops, Forest Service — whatever — tearing them down is completely independent of what I say and the maps I provide. If any of that were to happen, it would have happened or could happen totally regardless of anything that I ever said."

Caregiver says he averages about three smoke-shack stops each time he is on the hill, and claims to have visited the dozen or so Breckenridge shacks as many as 2,400 times over the fifteen years he's lived in the area. "Smoking marijuana is a very important part of skiing and a very strong part of the culture, especially for Breckenridge," he says. "It's great to have semi-secret underground smoke locations that are accessible off almost every lift. I've had awesome experiences hanging out with crew after crew of riders who pass by, blaze and keep riding. Young, old, male, female, all walks of life — the shack, man, the shack is so awesome."

According to Caregiver, Breckenridge officials generally turn a blind eye as long as the shacks don't become a nuisance or pose a danger to the people using them. He says he's seen ski patrollers glide past shacks while he's been inside blazing, watched instructors take ski schools past the shacks as a sort of on-mountain attraction, and has even spotted families having a wholesome, weed-free lunch in the shacks.

"Although I use the shacks to smoke marijuana, above all they are a beautiful piece of ski culture and art that represent something much larger than just smoking cannabis," he explains. "To just assume that they are a place to smoke pot is missing the larger picture. The people who think that way are the same ones who think a powder stash is their secret powder stash or something. Everything on the mountain is everyone's to enjoy."

But the Forest Service doesn't see it quite that way.

*****

Jim Stark, winter sports manager for the U.S Forest Service, can't point to a specific time when the federal agency became aware of the huts and shacks popping up on national forest land. They've always kind of been there, scattered around ski areas and back-country trails. As far as he can tell, what are now called smoke shacks likely started out as warming huts built by elk hunters or lean-tos used by miners. Over the years, as ski areas began leasing federal land and expanding their resorts, the shacks became part of their terrain...and their responsibility.

The older shacks tend to be ignored at most ski areas, Stark says. Some, like those at Winter Park, predate the ski area's existence and blend into the landscape. The few he hears about are the newer shacks Stark calls "summer jobs," whose construction involves cutting down living trees, stripping branches and using forest resources. These shacks have been growing in complexity over the last few decades, and some are now sprawling creations that rival (if not trump) the living quarters of the local ski bums who help build them.

The rare complaints that come into Stark's office are never about stoned riders and skiers visiting these shacks. Instead, they focus on environmental damage and concerns that hearing about the spots could lure inexperienced skiers into extreme terrain. But what Stark says he really gets gripes about are the growing number of on-mountain shrines. Scattered around the woods of Aspen and Snowmass are impromptu memorials devoted to famous and infamous dead celebrities ranging from Elvis to Hunter S. Thompson, covered with pictures, beads and other memorabilia. "They are an eyesore to people," he explains, noting that humble shrines for friends lost on the mountain tend to be left in peace.

The most serious hut-related incident Stark can recall was a few seasons back, at tiny, three-lift Sunlight Mountain outside of Glenwood Springs. A few local teens had spent their day skiing in and out of a shack, where they'd drink booze. One kid was "chugging vodka," he recalls, and passed out in the shack. His friends were unable to rouse the teen, and decided to leave him behind after the lifts stopped running. But one friend thought better of that plan and told the ski patrol, and the kid was found woozy, suffering from hypothermia and nearly frozen.

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55 comments
Sterling Meeks
Sterling Meeks

Oh lookie. The cool kids are mad. Have a cookie.

Ken Lord
Ken Lord

Good Job, Westword, Vail just destroyed their shacks and so is everyone else... thanks for destroying things through publication.

Becca Doyle
Becca Doyle

That was pretty hilarious, actually. BOOM.

Benjamin Bradburn
Benjamin Bradburn

You guys lit the fuse that blew this up. Seriously, fuck you from the bottom of my heart. Being a good journalist is sometimes knowing what not to do. Fuckwits.

Blake Kimmel
Blake Kimmel

Westword, you wrote about this enough, move on. we get it. how about reporting on the controversial THC roadside test, that is actually an issue effecting most of the state.

Sterling Meeks
Sterling Meeks

"I really wish you Westword fucktards would stop posting shit about this." You're right. Media should be completely subservient to the delicate sensibilities of the endlessly butthurt portion of its audience and resort to self-censorship. Derp!

Jason Joyce
Jason Joyce

This has been going on for decades... way to ruin it.

Chris Tanaka
Chris Tanaka

Bret its not exactly "public" if its secret right? ;)

Bret Kantola
Bret Kantola

You might want to rat out the very few places left for public consumption too. Oh wait, you already did that. FAIL.

Brian Smith
Brian Smith

The point of em is you have to go find em. Thats the whole fun of it. Maybe you should start a sight see tour an bring all the tourist in to see em too. Stop already, you suck. If it wasn't for music listings I would never look at your paper.

L Vincent Miltenberger
L Vincent Miltenberger

Why don't you do a story on all of the out of state tourists who can't ski and get drunk off of all of the over priced drinks that are sold legally all over the mountain for a change. This is more bullshit propaganda....

Matt Levan
Matt Levan

William posted this article in February. Calm the fuck down people, some have been there since the 70's. They're not going anywhere.

RockyMTNSteeze
RockyMTNSteeze

Leos was spectacular when I accidentally found the structure.  I was riding in the trees and saw a building.  At first it did not occur to me it was a shack, it was a well made structure.  I rode closer unstrapped and walked in.  There was a foyer and a spiraling staircase made out of skate decks.  I walked up the coolest staircase and went up stairs.  The top floor had sky windows and a coffee table surrounded by seating made from retired snowboards.  I was in awe, this was the coolest shack I have ever seen until I found Ralphs (RIP).

 

Years later the shack is now full of trash and falling apart.  No more sky lights, just a regular broken skate deck staircase and busted windows.  I hiked to the shack in September and was saddened by the condition.  Things were falling apart and it's very dirty.  Please don't leave your trash in shacks, this is a good way to get them torn down.  If you can bring it in, please bring it out.  The mountains will be more tolerant if you keep them clean.  I don't think this shack will be around much longer, but I will always remember the day I found it.

Star Stepping
Star Stepping

some things are best unpublished.. .shhheeee get sum klass WW

doodooskywalker
doodooskywalker

Um dude. The first rule of fight club is that you don't talk about the fight club. Trust me, no one needs to know about these places. Only the people that matter. You kinda just blew it. 

Anna Gingher
Anna Gingher

The first rule of fight club is that you don't talk about fight club.

Charlie Whiskey
Charlie Whiskey

Some of the best things involved in snowboarding are the trees and the bowls.

Payton_vege
Payton_vege

Amazing write-up! This could aid plenty of people find out more about this particular issue. Are you keen to integrate video clips coupled with these? It would absolutely help out. Your conclusion was spot on and thanks to you; I probably won’t have to describe everything to my pals. I can simply direct them here!

Fakeemail
Fakeemail

this is cool but i dont see the need to write an article lettin all the tool bags know the secrets

guest
guest

wow im the "hash cook" that the guys talking about who built the hashrishi temple. Forest service discovered the tent. Fined us $300. Ski patrol was nice enough to help us take it down the mountian. Got the whole thing down within a few hours. My advice to everyone is to keep building shacks whether big or small. Start a shack revolution!!

Anonymous
Anonymous

thanks for blowing the cover...

calhounp
calhounp

i'd like to publish some of these comments in our print edition, ideally with the author's full name. Contact me at patricia.calhoun@westword.com

Denver MMJ Patient
Denver MMJ Patient

Sometimes, you gotta have some medical marijuana to ease the pain in those knees, or back, and be able to enjoy being on the mountain just like before the pain/injury(s) happened.

Now if there was just a medical marijuana dispensary or caregiver set up in some of those shacks...

guest
guest

I love how the first incident of someone getting sick or being endangered by a shack was kids drinking alcohol.

Stick with weed its natural and safe! Don't drink n ski!

comenow
comenow

Smoking on the mountain is one of the quickest ways to get hit with a federal possession charge. Be safe and cautious, your med card is no good with Forest Service cops.

http://www.denverpost.com/news...

Dave
Dave

Whoa! People in Colorado ski and smoke pot? Yet another fine bit of investigative reporting by this crack team of go getters. I got a tip for you, there's these things called dog parks that not many people know about. Oh and someone could write about a kid who plays Canasta, way more edgier than Bridge.

tele-mon
tele-mon

I learned about the Winter Park huts on my first road trip to Colorado in 1991. After moving to Vail in '92, we created many of the great local's hideouts: Berries Hut (made from the remains of an original sheep-herder cabin), The Equilibrium Hut (EQ), Bwana Palace, all gone now thanks to VR and the USFS. We always kept them clean, but after an early spring visit by the wife of a VR executive saw some garbage that had melted out, before we had a chance to do some mainenance; BOOM! A waste of a constantly-shrinking USFS rec budget.

C
C

Thanks narcs for telling all of the authorities(and esecially Denver Republicans) where they are located. It's not legal everywhere in Colorado yet.

William Breathes
William Breathes

Hate to tell you, but your cover has been blown for years now.

Orionnewman
Orionnewman

They are good with forest service cops, and unless ur blaZin over 2 zones or are maybe growing in there mountain range you will never get a friggin fed charge Or any for that matter! Quit tryin to freak people out bro!

High Country Caregiver
High Country Caregiver

C, no matter how you look at it cannabis is a social drug, skiing is a social sport, the more the merry! Ain't none of your authorit-eye ever gonna change that. Breckenridge pulls in more skiers than any resort in Colorado and part of that is the smoke shack appeal, and they aren't about to start fucking with the guests and messing with the shacks. It's important that humans be able to enjoy cannabis in secure social settings, combined with skiing, it's a high made in heaven.

William Breathes
William Breathes

We don't give away any specific locations in this story, with the exception of a fully-visible bench at Keystone that is in plain sight - even then, it's a general location.

And I hate to break it to you, but the "authorities" (ski patrol and the forest service) were already well aware of the in-bounds shacks we do mention.

Dave
Dave

I'm sorry, I forgot about another scoop for you. Apparently there are secret spots in City Park where kids from East go to get high. It practically writes itself. You can title it, "East, High?". You're welcome.

GeeRam
GeeRam

Seriously - anyone who thinks ski patrol isn't aware of nearly every shack is naive. However, in producing this article you did apply further pressure to them and forest service to 'handle' the issue as its now in the public/management's view.

Dave
Dave

Hey man, I'm on your side. I agree with you. But before you hit send, or whatever, read what you're about to send and say it out loud. For example, you wrote, and I quote, "On the upside Petr, and it should be applauded, is anyone who is working in the media who will show that marijuana is safe, and a very common way that many Americans have been enjoying life in recreation, or medically for years." End quote.

What you typed makes no sense. I think the better way to further your cause, hell my cause, is to read OUT LOUD TO YOURSELF what it is you're trying to get across. Seriously, it works.

WhiteRabbit77
WhiteRabbit77

On the upside Petr, and it should be applauded, is anyone who is working in the mediawho will show that marijuana is safe, and a very common way that many Americans have been enjoying life in recreation, or medically for years. It is nothing new, but we still have the government, and several media members who continue to lie, and make statements to indicate it is bad.

Thanks William, keep up the good work Brother!

Petr Czestiv
Petr Czestiv

Spot on Dave."...but getting stoned is an intrinsic part of the snow-day routines of many skiers and boarders." I love the word intrinsic, but Billy smashed it. While many people on the mountain do enjoy some cannabis or a flask, characterizing those things as 'intrinsic' is the kind of hyperbole WW spins out quite predictably. Lemmings in GoreTex indeed. The better story would have about a wrongly-accused or excessively-punished drug-popping-pushing, once-violent-now-spiritual street urchin turned 25 y/o semi-pro snowboarding pot head with a 17 y/o impregnated "fiance" who is taking on the Forest Service for his god given right to get stoned in comfort instead of on the lift like everybody else. That's cover material right there.

I've been skiing and climbing for 30 years. Nothing new about this "story". Smoke if you want. Or not. But there is no value here in this piece. Just because the backdrop is snowboarding, does not mean that it is not a story about drug use. But then, given that 80% of the ad revenue for this rag comes from dispensaries and 'self-employed models', it fits quite nicely I suppose. I've got a red card, but don't agree with romanticizing controlled substances for the sake of pandering to the hedonistic narcissistic droves.

William Breathes
William Breathes

You could be onto something huge here, Dave. Especially if it involves kids playing stoned Canasta in the previously mentioned dog parks.

Thanks for the tip.

 
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