In mid-January, four snowboarders backed by the snow sports advocacy group Wasatch Equality filed a lawsuit against Alta ski area claiming that their no-snowboard policy violates the 14th amendment. Now, things are heating up in court and Alta has asked a federal judge to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that the snowboarders’ claim of a rights violation “demeans the Constitution itself.” Ohhh, this is gettin’ good.
There are three remaining ski resorts in North America that ban snowboarding: Alta, Deer Valley, and Mad River Glen in Vermont. Only Alta is on public lands. So where does the ye old Constitution come in?
The lawsuit against Alta claims that the resort’s prohibition of snowboarders excludes “a particular class of individuals” from use of public land, and that this prohibition is based on irrational discrimination against snowboarders.
But now it’s Alta’s turn to fire back, saying that the 14th amendment protected the interests of former slaves during Reconstruction and it’s demeaning to suggest that it must be expanded “to protect the interests of those who engage in a particularized winter sport.” Of course, Alta isn’t relying only on the constitution argument. They also say that their snowboarding ban isn’t a result of snowboarder-hate but rather of business motives. Alta also maintains that because snowboarders have a “blind spot” due to traveling sideways down the mountain, this poses a safety concern (but with expert snowboarders on staff here at Curbed Ski who have never hit anyone on the mountain, we call bullshit on that one).
We can’t help but think this whole lawsuit might be a waste of time. One Wasatch, the newest controversial plan to connect the 7 Wasatch ski areas (Snowbird, Alta, Solitude, Brighton, Deer Valley, Park City, and Canyons) would require Alta to allow snowboarders in order to connect Snowbird with the other resorts. Powder Magazine reports that while Deer Valley G.M. Bob Wheaten said Deer Valley would not allow snowboarding in the foreseeable future, Onno Wieringa of Alta left the option open. “As the plan gets more refined, [Alta’s snowboarding policy] will be one of the things that gets addressed,” Wieringa said.
One Wasatch is far from a done deal, but these types of quotes out of Alta are just straight confusing. Will Alta spend the next few months laying out all the reasons they don’t need to allow snowboarding in this lawsuit, just to turn around in a year or two (or more?) and embrace stick shredders?
by Megan Barber