Snowboarders Sue Forest Service over Resort’s Anti-Snowboarder Policy

Sunday, January 19, 2014

The U.S. Forest Service is being sued as part of a lawsuit brought against one of the nation’s few ski resorts that ban snowboarders from its slopes.


Alta Ski Area, located in the mountains southeast of Salt Lake City, has barred snowboarders since the mid-1980s. The Forest Service got caught up in the litigation because most of the ski resort (85%) sits on public lands managed by the agency.


The plaintiffs consist of four snowboarders and Wasatch Equality, a nonprofit dedicated to opening all ski resorts on public property to snowboarding. They contend that Alta’s anti-snowboarding policy is unconstitutional because it violates snowboarders’ 14th Amendment rights to equal protection before the law.


Alta is one of only three ski resorts in the United States that prohibit snowboarding. But it is the only one that operates on public lands, specifically acreage located in the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest.


The other two resorts, Deer Valley and Mad River Glen, operate on privately-owned land, which is why they are not defendants in the case.


Attorney David B. Cronheim, chief legal correspondent for First Tracks!! Online Ski Magazine, says the plaintiffs may have a tough time winning their case in federal court.


He says “their theory is far-fetched,” because “snowboarders are not a protected class, so the defendants must merely show that they had a ‘rational basis’ for enacting the ban. This is a very low standard and will likely be easy for Alta and the Forest Service to meet.”


Alta has long insisted that its ban on snowboarders has to do with the terrain of its slopes, which it says are conducive to skiers only.

-Noel Brinkerhoff



To Learn More:

Alta Sued over Snowboard Ban (First Tracks! Online Ski Magazine)

Snowboarding Is not a Crime (by Jonny Bonner, Courthouse News Service)

Wasatch Equality v. ALTA Ski Lifts Company (U.S. District Court, Utah) (pdf)


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