Yesterday, we shared a completely hysterical Inside Edition report about smoke shacks at Colorado ski resorts -- a longtime phenomenon that our William Breathes has been writing about in depth for years.
Turns out, though, that one of the main settings for the Inside Edition piece -- Leo's Smoke Shack in Breckenridge -- has now been destroyed. And a resort spokesman stresses that any other shacks personnel find will also be taken down. See photos, videos and details below.
From conversations we've had with folks in the know, the smoke shack known as Leo's had been around in one form or another for as long as eight years. And as you can see in this video tribute, it wasn't exactly a hole in the ground:
But that's all over. According to Leo's Rebuild Project, a Facebook page devoted to bringing back the shack, the structure was destroyed on February 21.
Here's an iPhone photo of Leo's during its prime, courtesy of HighCountryCaregiver.com....
...and this is what was left of the shack as of a few days ago, in a pic shared on the Leo's Rebuild Project page: Russ Pecoraro, director of communications for the mountain division of Vail Resorts, which encompasses Breckenridge, says Leo's was crushed by "Breckenridge Mountain Operations, in conjunction with the U.S. Forest Service." . When asked if Leo's was wiped off the map as a result of the Inside Edition report, Percoraro doesn't directly confirm timing that appears far more than coincidental.
Instead, he stresses that "whenever we find or are made aware of smoke shacks, we are going about eliminating them."
Continue for more our interview with Vail Resorts' Russ Pecoraro about smoke shacks, including a video. Here's another video about a Breckenridge smoke shack:
When we asked Pecoraro if ski resort personnel had only just discovered Leo's, despite its enormous size, not to mention its legendary status among skiers who partake, he replies, "It's hard for me to speculate on what they knew about at Breckenridge and when. But I will tell you that we are now taking a zero-tolerance policy on our mountains. And the destruction of Leo's is us demonstrating what zero tolerance means."
Regarding the impetus for the war on smoke shacks, Pecoraro says, "I think the coverage around Amendment 64 in general has given people the perception that there's no holds barred in Colorado. And our concern is protecting our guests and employees. We want to show them that we are taking the steps to make sure they're protected. We want to let everyone know it's not legal to consume marijuana on our mountains."
Have there been recent serious accidents caused by marijuana intoxication? And if so, have the numbers been rising?
Rather than directly answer these questions, Pecoraro stresses that "any kind of skiing while impaired by drugs or alcohol is against the skier's responsibility code -- and that's what matters. This is not in reaction to a particular incident or anything like that. But we are trying to live by the letter of the law and protect all of our employees and guests."
He's more forthcoming on the topic of skiers from other states who may be unhappy with Colorado's marijuana laws; take a New York tourist who ripped Vail because people were talking about pot in his presence.
"We're proactively trying to let our guests know what the legalities are around the consumption of marijuana and put people's mind at ease that it is not permitted on our mountains," he allows. "And that's for everyone. That's to protect our guests who are not interested in that culture, and to protect our guests who are -- to let them know where they can and can't consume legally, so they're protected.
"We want everybody to come out and enjoy themselves and have a great time. And to do that, we want everyone to know what the rules of the game are. The last thing we want is for someone to show up and think this is going to be their big vacation, and that they can consume marijuana at our resorts, and then find out that's not the case and lose their skiing privileges, and maybe get cited by law enforcement."
While Pecoraro doesn't have a current count on the number of smoke shacks at Vail resorts that have been destroyed, he concedes that "they keep popping up. But people should know that it's illegal to build any kind of structure on Forest Service land without a permit. So building the structures is illegal, and consuming marijuana on federal land is also illegal.
"We just want to remind folks that we are most interested in their safety," he goes on. "We want them to come out and have a great time on our mountains. We're just asking people to observe the law and have fun safely and legally."
Continue to see the Inside Edition report about smoke shacks -- be warned that it's in auto-play mode -- as well as a press release about smoke shacks put out by Vail Resorts following Westword's inquiries about them. Here's the Inside Edition report....
...and here's the Vail Resorts release:
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Vail Resorts, U.S. Forest Service Work Together to Destroy Illegal Structures on Federal Land at Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone
BROOMFIELD, Colo. -- Feb. 26, 2014 -- Vail Resorts and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) have confirmed that a number of structures associated with prohibited marijuana use and constructed illegally on USFS lands within the permitted boundaries of the company's four Colorado resorts have been destroyed over the past several weeks.
Vail Resorts works closely with the Forest Service each year to eliminate these illegal structures, commonly referred to as 'smoke shacks', as they are made aware of them. In the past year, mountain operations teams and USFS officials have destroyed several structures at its Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone resorts.
"The safety of our guests and our employees is our highest priority and we therefore take a zero tolerance approach to skiing or riding under the influence," said Blaise Carrig, president of Vail Resorts' Mountain Division. "We do not permit the consumption of marijuana in or on any of our lifts, facilities or premises that we control. In addition to destroying illegal structures where this kind of illegal activity may be taking place, we are communicating the legalities around marijuana use with our guests and the community through signage, our websites, social media, and handing out informational cards to our guests in the base areas. We want the public to know that the consequences of being caught smoking marijuana on our mountains are removal from the mountain and the suspension of skiing and riding privileges."
In spite of the passage of Amendment 64 last fall, public consumption of marijuana continues to be illegal under Colorado law. In addition, possession and consumption of marijuana continues to be illegal under federal law. Vail Resorts' four Colorado ski resorts -- Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone -- are all located on U.S. Forest Service land, where possession and consumption of marijuana is illegal. In addition, using any ski lift or ski slope or trail while under the influence of drugs and alcohol is prohibited under the Colorado Ski Safety Act.
"Despite Colorado law, marijuana remains illegal on federal lands period," said Scott Fitzwilliams, forest supervisor for the White River National Forest. "For the 22 ski areas in Colorado that operate on national forest system lands, marijuana is still prohibited. Let me remind everyone that you can be cited and fined for marijuana use and possession on national forests. I will also add that it is against the law for anyone to build any structures on national forest system lands without a permit."
Furthermore, there is "no smoking" of any kind (tobacco, marijuana or e-cigarettes) permitted in any Vail Resorts owned and operated facilities, including restaurants, lodges and hotels, and officials will continue to enforce that policy. Vail Resorts will work with local law enforcement and the U.S. Forest Service to continue to closely monitor any illegal activity within the permitted boundaries of their resorts and will take immediate action against those who do not comply with the law.
Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.
More from our Marijuana archive circa March 2012: "Marijuana: Top five rules of ski-area smoke shack etiquette."