Snowboarding ban at Alta ski resort upheld by federal court

Alta ski area snowboard ban upheld
Turns out snowboarding may not, in fact, be protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. Photo: Courtesy of Spin Heike/Pixaby

A multi-year legal battle for snow-sport equality may be coming to an end after a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday morning that the Alta Ski Area in Utah is within its legal right to continue to ban snowboarders from its slopes.

The ruling was the result of a lawsuit filed by Wasatch Equality, a nonprofit group of snowboarders who sued Alta Ski Area over the summer, claiming its historical ban on snowboarders was unconstitutional.

The nonprofit group, whose mission is 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” claimed the practice of banning snowboarders from riding at Alta, which is on public land, was discriminatory and elitist.

RELATED: Alta Ski area defends right to ban skiers

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, however, didn’t share their viewpoint, and dismissed the lawsuit.

While the court didn’t weigh in on whether there is a constitutional right to snowboarding guaranteed under the Fourteenth Amendment, as Wasatch Equality claimed, it did declare that Alta was within its legal boundaries to limit the activities that are allowed on the land it currently leases from the federal government.

In her ruling, United States Circuit Judge Nancy Moritz agreed with a previous district judge who had tossed out Wasatch Equality’s lawsuit in 2014, before the group appealed.

Alta ski area snowboard ban upheld
For at least the time being, this view at Alta will feature no snowboarders. Photo: Courtesy of Sam Watson/Alta

And while the group has fought previous decisions that upheld Alta’s ban, Wasatch Equality says this is likely the end of their legal crusade.

“Notwithstanding the outcome, the case has generated significant attention, highlighting Alta’s policy and the conflicts surrounding it,” the group’s attorney, Jon Schofield, said in a written statement. “At this point, we can only hope that Alta will one day voluntarily join the vast majority of ski resorts by lifting its snowboarding ban and providing both skiers and snowboarders the opportunity to recreate on public land regardless of whether people choose to slide down the mountain on skis or a snowboard.”

Per the ruling, Alta will continue to be one of only three ski resorts in the United States — along with Vermont’s Mad River Glen and Utah’s Deer Valley — that still bans snowboarders.

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