Wednesday, January 29, 2014
Can snowboarders sue Alta Ski Area, seriously?
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Three ski resorts remain in the US that ban boarding, Mad River Glen, Deer Valley and Alta. Taos New Mexico lifted their snowboard ban in 2009. Now Alta's boarding ban is up for litigation grabs.
Alta is being sued for unlawfully prohibiting snowboarders on US Forest Service land. The January 15 2014 lawsuit filed by Wasatch Equality, a non-profit group formed solely for this purpose, states Alta's snowboard prohibition violates the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution.
Jonathan Schofield Wasatch Equity's Attorney, said “Alta is one of only three ski resorts in the US that does not allow snowboarding, and Alta is the only one that is operated on public land controlled by the Forest Service. Alta’s actions must comply with the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause. Alta’s prohibition against snowboarders excludes a particular class of individuals from use and enjoyment of public land based on irrational discrimination against snowboarders, which denies them equal protection under the law as guaranteed by the 14th Amendment.”
Alta Ski Area has guarded their Ski Area moniker and snowboarding ban since the 1980s. Alta is interconnected to Snowbird, which allows both skiers and snowboarders, but signs at the resorts' shared border turn away unwelcome boarders - back to The 'Bird.
"Are people still snowboarding? I hear that sport is dying," said Mad River Glen marketing director Eric Friedman. "I don't think they have a leg to stand on with this Alta lawsuit, but I am not a lawyer. What's awesome about our situation at Mad River Glen is we are on private land, and our snowboarding ban is up to the co-op (since 1995). If our owners, the shareholders, wanted to allow snowboarding, they could tomorrow. The attitude was waning at one point, but after Burton did their poach challenge in 2008, that turned everyone off." Vermont's Mad River Glen first allowed snowboarders in 1986, then banned boards beginning in 1991.
There are 486 snow sports areas in the US that allow snowboarding, 197 are on US Forest Service land. Does the Alta snowboard lawsuit have merit or is it mere frivolity clogging the US court system? Is it irrational discrimination to prevent them from riding on US Forest slopes? Can snowboarders argue that they are a "protected class" within the meaning of the Constitution? Besides, isn't there enough terrain in Utah for snowboarders that they don't need to sue this last skiers' vertical vestige - a ski area that expressly doesn't welcome or want their presence or their purses? I'm going skiing... maybe Mad River Glen - there slogan "ski it if you can" has a wonderful double entendre.