Utah resort Alta Ski Area has been sued for refusing to open its slopes to snowboarders. In their lawsuit filed last week, four snowboarders claimed discrimination on national forest lands that make up most of the Alta ski area in the mountains east of Salt Lake City.

The plaintiffs bought tickets Sunday knowing that they would be turned away at the chairlifts. One of them later sneaked onto the lift using “split boards” – a snowboard that splits apart and resembles skis – but was intercepted and escorted down the mountain.

Despite all of this, multiple pieces of ski equipment was permitted on the lift, even a mono-ski. The complaint says, “simply a single board nearly identical to a snowboard in shape and size but with feet facing forward.” According to the lawsuit, the ban “excludes snowboarders from use and enjoyment of the public land on which Alta operates.” The lawsuit argues that the rights of snowboarders are being violated under the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution. The ban for snowboarders also “hurts Utah tourism and, by excluding mixed-skier/snowboarder families, flies in the face of Utah’s family values.”

The lawsuit has been filed by Rick Alden, Richard Varga, Drew Hicken and Bjorn Leines. Leines is a pro. They were joined by Wasatch Equality, which is a snow sports advocacy group. The lawsuit was filed against Alta and the United States Forest Service in federal court.

Alta is one of the last remaining U.S. ski areas that bans snowboarding. Deer Valley, another Utah resort, and Mad River Glen in Vermont also ban snowboarding. Taos in New Mexico relented in 2009 and allowed the practice. Alta is the only resort that sits on public land.

Since snowboarding has been declining in recent years, see Fewer Snowboarders on the Slopes, the lawsuit seems much ado about not much.

1 Comment

  • According to the Utah Skier Safety Act, Utah defines “skier” as any person present in a ski area for the purpose of engaging in the sport of skiing, nordic, freestyle, or other types of ski jumping, using skis, sled, tube, snowboard, or any other device. I’m curious why then if a snowboarder, by law, is a skier, how they can be banned?

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