The long-running battle over whether or not snowboarders should be prohibited from boarding at Utah's Alta Ski Area is heating up. In 2014, a group of four snowboarders backed by the snow advocacy group Wasatch Equality filed a lawsuit 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. Although that lawsuit was dismissed, the snowboarders convinced the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to hear their case.
Yesterday, lawyers presented oral arguments in Denver before the appeals court. The panel of three judges need to decided whether to revive the lawsuit. The lawyers representing Alta told the court they are not biased against snowboarders— just their equipment. Alta argued that their policy is not based on discrimination, but instead on a business decision to provide a snowboarder-free experience.
In contrast, the attorney representing the snowboarders argued that Alta does not have the right to keep snowboarders off of public land designated for skiing. Currently, 119 ski resorts operate on public land and allow snowboarding. There are only three ski areas in North America that still ban snowboarding: Alta, Deer Valley, and Mad River Glen.
In previous court proceedings, Alta's lawyers claimed that snowboarding was less safe than skiing because of an alleged "blind spot." According to the Denver Post, during Tuesday's hearing, Judge Harris L. Hartz asked about this blind spot. The snowboarders' attorney replied that the blind spot discussion is irrelevant because snowboarding does not endanger skiers.
The judges in the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals gave no timeline for when they might rule, so this age-old drama continues.