To highlight World No Tobacco Day, British Columbia’s Whistler Blackcomb resort has made its stance on smoking undeniably clear: Toke your business elsewhere.
As of May 31, the four-season resort — it's also the largest ski area in North America — will no longer permit smoking of any kind on resort property. That means no cigar, cigarette, marijuana, or e-cigarette smoking anywhere on official Whistler Blackcomb property, including ski runs, parking lots, lift lines, all Whistler Blackcomb bars and restaurants, and yes, even outdoor patios.
"We have made the decision to introduce a smoke-free policy at Whistler Blackcomb to preserve the pristine alpine environment our guests come here for," said Dave Brownlie, president and CEO at Whistler Blackcomb, in an interview with GlobalNews.ca.
"We also recognize [that] as a leader in the outdoor adventure and wellness industry and as the largest employer in the Whistler community, we have a responsibility to our guests and staff to provide a safe and healthy environment for work and play. We believe implementing this new policy aligns with this goal."
The Canadian resort is not the first resort to promote a smoke-free environment — several U.S. resorts, including Grand Targhee Resort and Jackson Hole Resort in Wyoming, have promised tobacco-free environments — but they are certainly the best-known property to take the plunge. As host to much of Vancouver’s 2010 Winter Olympics, Whistler Blackcomb is on the international radar, so the news sets a massive health-first precedent moving forward.
"We know many young people ski and snowboard, and youth who haven't started using tobacco by the time they are 26 years old will most likely never start," said Dr. Paul Martiquat of the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority in a statement following the announcement.
It’s a bold move in an area that has a rather deep tobacco and marijuana tradition. In fact, Whistler has made smoking headlines before. Area native and Whistler snowboarder Ross Rebagliati was stripped of his 1998 Winter Olympic gold medal after testing positive for THC (it was later restored). Upon his return to Whistler, he was greeted with a televised “smoke-in” (think large crowd and even larger cloud of smoke) , and now owns a medicinal marijuana branding company, “Ross’ Gold.”
Additionally, the resort has become a hub for action-sports stars — and with those stars, a generous following of tobacco and marijuana products. With the World Ski and Snowboard Festival held every March and mountain biking’s Shangri-La, Crankworx, just around the corner, it remains to be seen what type of backlash will arise from the shred universe.
Whistler’s monumental announcement comes at a crucial time for resorts throughout North America. Last year, areas in Colorado struggled to enforce smoking bans with the state’s new legalization of marijuana, with some resorts like Arapahoe Basin suspending lift privileges for anyone caught smoking marijuana on the hill. (Tobacco use is also prohibited, but only in lift lines and on the chairlift.) Whistler’s newest action is a step above anything proposed up to this point, and without any punishments publicly announced, it will be interesting to see how and how well the policy is enforced.
Also, while the move bans smoking on resort premises, use of tobacco products is still permitted within the Municipality of Whistler, including the village. While there are still loopholes in the system, Whistler’s comprehensive smoking ban could be a tipping point for resort life of the future.
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