From Powder Magazine:
It seemed like a long time coming, but Alta’s “skiers versus snowboarders” quarrel finally boiled over from barroom to courtroom this January, when a group of snowboarders filed a formal complaint in federal court alleging the Utah resort’s no-snowboarders policy violates their Constitutional rights under the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.
After months of silence, a stoic Alta finally spoke its piece at the end of March, and did so emphatically, filing a motion to dismiss the case entirely. The snowboarder’s argument, according to the mountain, would never hold up in court, didn’t deserve a trial, and was a gross misinterpretation of the law.
Said Alta’s lawyers in their most recent court filing, “It demeans the Constitution to suggest that the amendment that protected the interests of former slaves during Reconstruction…must be expanded to protect the interests of those who engage in a particularized winter sport.”
Working in conjunction with snow sports advocacy group Wasatch Equality, snowboarders Rick Alden, Drew Hicken, Richard Varga, and Bjorn Leines had originally claimed that Alta’s no-snowboarders policy—a policy dating back to the 1980s—was discriminatory by nature and should not be allowed on the public land that Alta leases from the United States Forest Service. The group maintained that snowboarders were being kept from public land unlawfully, and that they were being denied access to that land because of a general dislike, or animus, by the Alta organization and community—a violation of the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.
The Equal Protection Clause is meant to protect groups of people against harmful bias, in this case a bias that Wasatch Equality’s lawyer Jon Schofield feels has kept snowboarders from gaining legal access to the resort’s terrain.
“They are perpetuating this ‘hate snowboarders’ attitude,” claims Hicken, one of the four longtime snowboarders involved in the suit. “When Baldy access was opened from the Snowbird side two seasons ago, we were heckled by skiers at the top, near the exit of the lift station, and again in the parking lot. You can get a sense of how the people [at Alta] think.”
Yet, according to Bill Gilbert, a third party discrimination lawyer from Seattle, that doesn’t constitute a successful discrimination claim.
“Snowboarders, I don’t care how they spin it in the lawsuit, are not a protected class,” says Gilbert. “They are trying to make a push to be considered a protected class by saying that they are treated like they are different, and I think that will get thrown out in court.”
Learn more about future plans in Utah — including an idea to link all seven Wasatch resorts — which is gaining steam in Utah and might actually open up Alta to snowboarding >