Tom Martin, Chief Marshall in Crested Butte, has seen his fair share of groups and events come through his tiny mountain town of roughly 1,500. And, contrary to popular campus opinion, Colorado College students letting loose at Winterfest aren’t that abnormally rowdy or problematic, he said.
There were some exceptions at last season’s celebration, however.
“Last year, there were some relatively serious issues that needed to be addressed from the CC group, but we are working closely with the school administration to mitigate any problems this year,” Lynn Kiklevich, Vice President of the Lodging Division for Crested Butte Mountain Resort, said in a statement.
Next weekend, hundreds of CC students will head to southwest Colorado for the annual closing weekend ski, party and three-day getaway, organized by the Freeriders’ Union of Colorado College.
The town and resort at Crested Butte relies heavily on tourism and visitors, and this weekend provides a helpful boost, according to the local Chamber of Commerce. With the town’s large number of bars and restaurants, of-age students looking to drink help the economy.
One employee at a ski shop near the base of the resort even said, “We totally support rowdy party behavior.”
“CC’s a lot worse than the arts festival in August or the 50-year-old people who have a lot of money,” Martin said. “But you talk to the bar owners and they would rather have [college students].”
Nevertheless, local police, resort staff and the ski patrol are still kept busy dealing with some out-of-control behavior.
“The issues come with the excessive alcohol use and the drug abuse, those sort of things,” said Bill Dowell, Ski Patrol Director at Crested Butte. “We try to have a low tolerance for people skiing under the influence. We don’t enjoy those encounters with those kinds of people… but there are other guests here [we have to respect] and we will escort [intoxicated people] off the hill if we have to.”
Crime off the ski slopes has been documented by police as well.
“The destruction of property definitely does happen,” Nate Stepanik, Chief of Police at Crested Butte Mountain Resort, said. “It happens with a number of groups.”
Stepanik and Martin said they plan to meet with college representatives next Friday in order to exchange contact information. The Marshall’s Office is also sending a representative to meet with students on Friday to receive questions and concerns.
Local police said they have higher staffing than they typically do when groups come to town and during closing weekend. The ski patrol says it also makes note to expect additional visitors from a college group.
“We have a lot of alcohol-related problems any time we have a college-aged body in town and I don’t think there is anything out of the ordinary with Colorado College kids,” Martin said. “…We give people credit whenever we catch them, we give out tickets… We aren’t hard-asses, but we if you urinate in public or are intoxicated in public we will cite you.”
Stepanik said he encounters similar problems near the mountain.
“It’s just a time of year when we have a large influx of college students that most likely know each other,” he said. “Some issues we have are drug use and alcohol abuse. Most of what we deal with is noise complaints. It’s really no different than other large groups.”
On the mountain, though, intoxicated CC students pose a different kind of problem.
“Somebody skiing under the influence of alcohol is impaired and their response time is lowered,” Dowell said. “Skiing is an activity that happens at a relatively high rate of speed compared to walking. Sometimes you approach the speed of a car. We worry about the safety of the student or the people who are here partying and our goal is to keep it safe for everyone.”
Dowell said he has also seen his share of naked skiing on closing weekend in years past. CC administrators caught wind of a student plot to ski bare-skinned planned on the FUCC listerv in recent years and quickly warned against it.
Since then, naked CC skiers and riders haven’t been a problem.
“We have always enjoyed hosting this group and are hopeful that last year was an anomaly,” Kiklevich said. “We plan on enthusiastically welcoming them back this year and for years to come. We are hopeful that the students will ski hard and have a great time while also being respectful of the resort, their lodging properties and other guests who are staying with us.”
Nonetheless, those who break the law will suffer consequences.
“If you’re underage, don’t drink alcohol and don’t do any drugs,” Stepanik said. “If you are disorderly and destroying things, you will be sent off to jail.”