It goes without saying that skiing and snowboarding while drunk is dangerous. Heck, skiing while sober is dangerous enough. Yet in a sport where alcohol is almost as much a part of the culture as snow, the warning bears repeating. To realize that the message about skiing and drinking doesn’t always compute, one need look no further than the US Ski Team, where two widely publicized incidents recently highlighted the issue.
The first incident was Bode Miller’s startling-but-not-so-startling admission that he skied drunk in World Cup races. The second was the sad tale of former US Ski Team member Robert Vietze. Vietze blew his shot at the 2014 Olympics by drunkenly urinating on a sleeping 11-year old girl during an August 2011 JetBlue redeye home from training in Oregon.
Lawyers are often accused of ruining everyone’s fun, so let me clarify. No one’s saying don’t have fun. I have lots of fun when I ski and enjoy a good après-ski as much as the next skier. However, it is important to understand the risks and legal consequences of mixing alcohol and skiing. So I promise – no preaching, just a quick overview of the law.
Let’s start with the most basic scenario – skiing while drunk. Many people are surprised to learn that skiing under the influence is actually a crime in many states. For example, in Colorado, skiing under the influence carries up to a $1,000 fine. C.R.S. 33-44-109(9). In Wyoming, drunk skiing is a misdemeanor which could land you in jail for up to 20 days. Wyo. Stat. Ann. 6-9-301(b). Of course, these laws are rarely used to prosecute drunk skiers. However, it’s important to remember that just because the law isn’t applied often doesn’t mean it won’t be applied to you. Just ask this Telluride skier nabbed by Mountain Village cops in 2009.
Lastly, to clarify, while a DUI will get your driver’s license yanked, a “Ski-U-I” is not a motor vehicle violation (so it won’t), but it doesn’t mean it will look good on your next job application either.