Weekend what we’re reading: Colorado ski resort pot, Google travel? holiday airline fees

by Charlie Leocha on December 22, 2012

This weekend we look at how newly passed marijuana laws passed in Colorado and Washington State might impact ski resorts. We look at the travel information served up by Google. And, Consumers Union urges airline travelers to understand the fees airlines are charging this holiday season.

How will new marijuana laws impact ski resorts?

As Colorado and Washington State have opened the doors to marijuana smoking, what does that mean at ski and snowboard resorts with much of their skiing on federal park lands? The laws are being written and have yet to be acted upon by the federal government, but a day of reckoning is coming.

“We do not expect anything to change for us,” said Jeff Hanle, director of public relations at Aspen Skiing Company, who operates four Colorado ski resorts. “I don’t know the full details of the law yet, nor does anyone from what I can tell. But from what I have heard, it will not be legal to smoke pot in public.

“There will be an age requirement, like alcohol, as well. It will be legal to possess a small amount, to grow at home, etc.,” continued Hanle. “Once there is more clarity on the law, it will still be up to the police to enforce, not private companies.”

So what happens right now when a skier or snowboarder decides to light up a joint or loads up a bowl of pot at a Colorado ski resort?

“Basically, Amendment 64 allows for the possession of marijuana, but the law specifically states that public use is still prohibited, so in essence it really doesn’t impact us at all,” said Steve Hurlbert, Public Relations and Communications Manager for Winter Park and Mary Jane ski resorts in Colorado.

Is Google Travel on its way?

Google is moving more and more into the travel field with Google Flight Explorer that serves up ideas of where to travel. Google’s purchase of Zagat’s and Frommer’s give the Internet giant direct access to their own in-depth information. Look for Google to keep providing many of the answers that searchers are querying before users see natural search.

Google Flight Explorer, the new feature seen today for the first time, lets users select a departure airport and a region or city and then serves them ideas for places to go.

Each search result is linked to the usual Flight Search page, but beforehand the user can hover their mouse over a graph to check prices for multiple (US-only, inevitably) carriers to that destination.

Essentially, the user can explore multiple destinations in a region, for multiple dates, and multiple lengths of stay for carriers working the routes (including any alliances).

Users can select filters such as number of stops, airline and departure and arrival time, and the results will update on the page without refreshing.

Images of the location are, of course, supplied by Google-owned picture site Panoramio.

Airlines make it hard to calculate charges before you make a reservation

One of the most unpleasant experiences travelers get during the Christmas holidays are more airline fees than they imagine. Everyone may know somewhere in the back of their minds that there are baggage fees of some kind, but some airlines charge and some don’t. Plus, some passengers are exempt. But the airlines don’t disclose these specifics in a way that makes the cost of travel easy to compare.

As annoying as the fees are, what makes the situation unacceptable is that airlines have made it hard — and sometimes practically impossible — for you to add up all these charges before you make a reservation, in the way you can tally all the options when buying a car.

This problem is especially bad when you book through a travel site or travel agency, since you typically can’t see unlisted fees in an apples-to-apples fashion, preventing you from doing true comparison shopping.

Consumers Union believes that the U.S. Department of Transportation should require airlines to be more transparent about fees. We’re pushing for rules to ensure that you can see and compare the real costs of airline tickets before you buy.

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