Judge tosses lawsuit over Alta’s snowboarding ban

Posted at 3:15 PM, Sep 23, 2014
and last updated 2014-09-23 18:28:34-04

SALT LAKE CITY — A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed over Alta ski resort’s snowboarding ban.

In the ruling handed down late Tuesday and obtained by FOX 13, U.S. District Court Judge Dee Benson rejected a claim by the group Wasatch Equality that they had a “constitutional right to snowboard at Alta Ski Resort.”

“To put it simply, Plaintiffs’ case fails because there is no law to support it,” he wrote. “The Equal Protection Clause is not a general fairness law that allows everyone who feels discriminated against to bring an action in federal court.”

Judge Benson wrote that the snowboarders’ claims of equal protection is not what the Fourteenth Amendment was anticipated to reach.

“There are many forums Plaintiffs can resort to in an attempt to accomplish their goal of snowboarding down the Baldy Chutes at Alta,” Benson said. “Seeking an injunction from this court is not one of them.”

Read the judge’s ruling here:

Lawyers for Wasatch Equality told FOX 13’s Caroline Connolly they were considering their options to appeal to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court in Denver.

Wasatch Equality sued, arguing that Alta’s historic ban on snowboarding violated their right to equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

The Fourteenth Amendment has been cited in cases of race, gender, national origin — and most recently cases for marriage equality. In arguments, lawyers for Wasatch Equality suggested that snowboarders were considered by Alta to be “undesirable.”

Alta insisted it does not discriminate against people — just equipment.

The federal government also sought the dismissal of the lawsuit, noting that the U.S. Forest Service has the authority to restrict certain activities on public lands.

In a statement to FOX 13, acting U.S. Attorney for Utah Carlie Christensen said she was pleased with the judge’s ruling:

“We are very pleased with the Court’s decision today dismissing the complaint filed by Wasatch Equality and the individual Plaintiffs.  We agree with the Court’s conclusion that Alta’s policy of prohibiting snowboards at the ski area did not violate the equal protection clause.  We also believe that the Court’s decision vindicates two important principles.  First, the court found that the Equal Protection Clause is not a general fairness law that allows anyone who feels discriminated against to bring an action in federal court.  Rather, the Equal Protection clause is enforced only against those actions which can fairly be attributed to the government and in this case, the court properly found that Alta’s snowboard policy was not fairly attributable to the Forest Service.

“Second, even if the snowboard policy was attributable to the Forest Service, the Court found that the United States has plenary power to make such discretionary decisions regarding the management of its public lands without being subject to review under the equal protection clause.  For example, the United States makes decisions as to which lands are open to mineral leasing, which lands are free from roads or motorized use, which lands allow hunting and fishing, and which lands should preclude them. Land management agencies simply could not function if every land use decision gave rise to an equal protection claim under the constitution.”