Crystal joins growing list of smoke-free resorts

When you hit the slopes at Crystal Mountain this winter, you'll see plenty of skiers and snowboarders. But one thing you won't see in any of the slope-side lodges or restaurants are smokers. The Benzie County resort has gone completely smoke-free in all buildings.

The non-smoking policy, which took affect Nov. 1, includes Crystal's 260 guestrooms, condominiums and townhouses as well as restaurants, bars, and conference facilities. The only places customers will be able to light-up are on balconies and designated outdoor smoking areas.

"The negative effects of smoking and second-hand smoke are well documented," said Jim MacInnes, president and general manager of Crystal Mountain. "As a family-oriented resort that believes in promoting healthy lifestyles, this new policy is simply the right thing for us to do."

Banning indoor smoking was not an overnight decision for the resort. MacInnes sought input from several resorts out West that were already smoke-free. In early October he took the proposal to Crystal's executive committee for approval. The vote was unanimous-the resort would become smoke-free.

"We have gotten a lot of positive feedback from customers and employees," says Public Relations Manager Brian Lawson. "In fact, when we made the announcement to property owners, we got some applause."

Property owners aren't the only ones applauding Crystal Mountain's decision to go smoke-free.

"I think it's fantastic," says Lisa Danto, coordinator for the Traverse Bay Area Tobacco Coalition, a non-profit organization that promotes the benefits of smoke-free environments. "I hope more Benzie County businesses will follow Crystal's example."

The Coalition was recently awarded a $15,000 state grant to find out which Benzie County businesses are smoke-free. Over the next several months, the non-profit organization will be sending out hundreds of surveys.

"Once we know which businesses allow smoking, we can spend our time and resources trying to convert them," says Danto. Last year, the Coalition did a similar study in Leelanau County and of the 213 surveys returned, 92 percent of the businesses said they do not allow smoking in their establishment.

Not all area businesses are ready to make the commitment of totally prohibiting smoking.

"We like to be inclusive of anyone's lifestyle choice," says J. Michael DeAgostino, public relations manager for the Grand Traverse Resort in Acme. "And for some, that lifestyle choice is smoking."

However, the resort is making efforts to become more eco-friendly and says by the end of this month it will be more than 90 percent smoke-free.

Guest rooms in five out of the six floors in the hotel will be non-smoking and the only restaurant/bar customers will be able to smoke in is Jack's Sports Bar.

More than a dozen area resorts and hotels made the decision years ago to go smoke-free. The 120-room Bayshore Resort has been smokeless since 1994, making it Traverse City's first smoke-free lodging facility.

"Sometimes we lose groups because of our no-smoking policy," says General Manger Jessica Lukomski. "But I think in the long run we gain more customers who appreciate our policy." Lukomski adds that it creates a clean, healthy atmosphere overall.

The Traverse Bay Area Tobacco Coalition says health reasons aren't the only advantages to going smoke-free.

"It is definitely financially beneficial to the business to prohibit smoking," says Danto.

The Coalition states that businesses can pay twice as much in insurance if they allow smoking. A no-smoking policy can even make them money, Danto asserts.

"When a business goes smoke-free, I am a new customer," she said. BN