Cue the snowboarding-skiing debate: a judge ruled yesterday that snowboarders don't have a constitutional right to ride Alta Ski Resort. About 9 months ago, four snowboarders backed by the snow sports advocacy group Wasatch Equality filed a lawsuit in Utah against both Alta and the U.S. Forest Service. The lawsuit claimed that Alta's prohibition of snowboarders excludes "a particular class of individuals" from use of public land, and that this prohibition was based on irrational discrimination against snowboarders. This week, U.S. District Judge Dee Benson rejected these arguments and threw out the lawsuit.
Only three ski resorts in North America ban snowboarding: Alta, Deer Valley, and Mad River Glen in Vermont. Alta Ski Resort is the only one of the three on public lands, and while snowboards are banned at Alta, other types of snow equipment, including mono skis, are allowed.
The judge dismissed the case in part because the snowboarders presented no evidence that the U.S. Forest Service had anything to do with the ski area's ban on snowboards. According to the Deseret News, the judge wrote that, "The decision was Alta's, and Alta's alone, operating as a private business. The Forest Service did not encourage the rule, discourage the rule, agree with the rule, or disagree with the rule; nor was the Forest Service consulted on the appropriateness of the rule."
While the plaintiffs argued that Alta's no-snowboard policy violates the 14th amendment, Judge Benson wrote that this view of the 14th amendment is "misplaced and mistaken. The equal protection clause is not a general fairness law that allows everyone who feels discriminated against to bring an action in federal court. There are many forums plaintiffs can resort to in an attempt to accomplish their goal of snowboarding down the Baldy Chutes at Alta. Seeking an injunction from this court is not one of them."
The snowboarders and Wasatch Equality could appeal the decision in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.
While this is a blow to those seeking to open Alta to snowboarders, it's safe to assume that publicity was also a goal. The lawsuit reignited the long-standing debate over skiing and snowboarding and whether some resorts should still forbid snowboarding. Frankly, Curbed Ski is tired of the whole thing. Skiers and snowboarders have more similarities than differences. Can't we all just get along?
· Judge tosses snowboarders' lawsuit demanding access to Alta Ski Resort [Deseret News]
· Snowboarders Sue Alta Ski Area, the Internet Freaks Out [Curbed Ski]
· Alta Claims Snowboarding Lawsuit Demeans the Constitution [Curbed Ski]
· Powder Magazine Calls for an End to Snow-Separatism [Curbed Ski]
· The Results Are In: 68% Want to Combine 7 of Utah's Ski Areas [Curbed Ski]