Snowboarders sue for access to Alta, claim ban on boarding is unconstitutional

Posted at 5:27 PM, Jan 15, 2014

SALT LAKE CITY – Four snowboarders and a Utah nonprofit corporation have filed a lawsuit against a Utah ski area that doesn’t allow snowboarders at the resort.

Wasatch Equality Utah and the individuals in the lawsuit filed in the United States District Court allege that Alta Ski Area violates rights guaranteed by the 14th Amendment.

“Just because they lease the land doesn’t mean that they can go out and discriminate and say who can come here and say who can’t come here,” said Jonathan Schofield, an attorney at Parr, Brown, Gee & Loveless in Salt Lake City.

Because Alta sits on U.S. Forest Service land under a special use permit, the suit alleges that resort’s policy, “excludes snowboarders from use and enjoyment of the public land on which Alta operates, unlawfully discriminates against snowboarders, and denies snowboarders equal protection under the law as guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”

“They’re violating the equal protection clause of the United States in so doing,” Schofield said, “We’re going to tell 40 percent of the skiing population that they can’t come here because they choose to stand on a snowboard sideways, rather than putting two skis on and facing forward, and we think they’re treating two different classes of people differently.”

The plaintiffs are asking the court to permanently enjoin Alta from enforcing their ban on snowboards and snowboarding at the ski area.

“My biggest gripe with that is that if you were to look at five of the best resorts in the entire world, Alta would probably be in the top three,” said Drew Hicken, president of Wasatch Equality and one of the plaintiffs.

Hicken used to snowboard at Alta in the early eighties, before he said the mountain started prohibiting them.

“It’s one of the world premier resorts with some of the best snowfall and best snow quality in the world,” Hicken said.

He and his co-plaintiffs claim Alta is one of only three ski resorts in the country that has a ban on snowboarding, as well as the only such resort to be located on land controlled by the U.S. Forest Service.

Alta has long prided itself on being for skiers only, but not everyone who uses it minds making room for boarders.

“They’re great. They add a whole different aspect to riding the mountain. So, it doesn’t really matter, skiing, snowboarding, it’s just all the same fun feeling,” skier Taylor Richards said.

According to Schofield, “Alta operates under a Forest Service Permit, which specifically states that the public lands ‘shall remain open to the public for all lawful purposes,’ yet Alta refuses to allow certain members of the public from using its land.”

FOX13 reached out to Alta Resort and the U.S. Forest Service on Wednesday night. Both declined to offer any comment until their respective lawyers had reviewed the lawsuit.

The lawsuit is available in its entirety by clicking here.

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