Alta Ski Area defends right to ban snowboarders

snowboarder sitting it out
Snowboarders will be sitting on the sidelines this winter at Alta Ski Area as the resort upholds ban. Photo: mdewod/Twenty20

Attorneys for Alta Ski Area in Utah, one of three ski resorts and the only on public land in the United States to still ban snowboarding, took to a federal appeals court on Friday to defend the resort from a lawsuit that claimed it’s ban is unconstitutional.

The lawsuit was filed by four Utah-based snowboarders who formed a nonprofit organization, Wasatch Equality, with a mission to, “work to end the anti-snowboarding policies that prevent friends and families from exercising their legal right to enjoy public lands, regardless of how they choose to get down the hill.”

In the lawsuit, the snowboarders claim that Alta has engaged in discriminatory practices.

RELATED: Is it time to allow snowboarding at skiers-only resorts? 

“Defendants have transformed public land into a private country club controlled by those exclusive, elitist and discriminatory views,” attorneys for the group wrote in court documents calling for the ban to be repealed.

While two other resorts — Mad River Glen in Vermont and Deer Valley in Utah — also ban snowboarding, they do so on privately owned property, whereas the U.S. Forest Service has to approve a lease permit for Alta, which the lawyers for Wasatch Equality argue constitutes state-sponsored discrimination.

However, the U.S. Forest Service has backed Alta’s right to deny access to snowboarders, a right the resort says has nothing to do with the Constitution.

“Quite simply, the Constitution neither recognizes nor protects a right to snowboard,” Alta’s attorneys wrote in court documents in response to Wasatch Equality’s complaint.

snowboarding stance
Snowboarders’ sideways stance said to create dangerous blind spots on slopes. Photo: bradtorchia/Twenty20

Rather, Alta’s attorneys defended the ban saying that they find the ski area more peaceful and safer because they don’t have to worry about being hit by snowboarders whose sideways stance leaves them with a blind spot, making them a hazard to others on the slopes.

As of right now, it would seem the law agrees with the ski resort.

The complaint, which was first filed in in January 2014, was initially tossed out by U.S. District Judge Dee Benson 10 months ago, who argued that snowboarders didn’t have a constitutional right to practice their sport.

By appealing that ruling at the federal court level, Wasatch Equality hopes to change that.

No date has been set yet for oral arguments.

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