Alta’s snowboarding ban upheld by federal appeals court

Posted at 11:54 AM, Apr 19, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-19 17:24:00-04

SALT LAKE CITY — A federal appeals court has rejected a lawsuit brought by a group of snowboarders, challenging the Alta Ski Area’s historic snowboarding ban.

In a ruling issued Tuesday morning, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the lawsuit brought by the group Wasatch Equality. The appeals court did not weigh in on whether there is a constitutional right to snowboard under the Fourteenth Amendment, but declared that Alta could put limits on activity that takes place on land it leases from the federal government.

“Recognizing that private action won’t sustain a civil rights complaint, Wasatch further alleged the ban constitutes ‘state action’ because Alta operates its ski resort on federal land via a permit issued by the United States Forest Service—a permit that requires the Forest Service to annually review and approve Alta’s site management plan. The district court disagreed, and dismissed this case for failure to identify a state action. Because we agree Wasatch hasn’t plausibly established that the snowboard ban constitutes state action, we affirm,” Judge Nancy Moritz wrote in the opinion.

Wasatch Equality sued Alta, arguing that its longstanding ban on snowboarding violated their rights under the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. They also argued that Alta leases land from the federal government and its action denies them access to the mountain. The Fourteenth Amendment has been cited in cases of race, religion, gender, and most recently, marriage equality. Wasatch Equality has insisted they were not trying to get snowboarders declared a “protected class,” but press for equal access on government land.

In an email to FOX 13, Wasatch Equality attorney Jon Schofield said they were disappointed with the ruling, and did not expect to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“Notwithstanding the outcome, the case has generated significant attention, highlighting Alta’s policy and the conflicts surrounding it.  At this point, we can only hope that Alta will one day voluntarily join the vast majority of ski resorts by lifting its snowboarding ban and providing both skiers and snowboarders the opportunity to recreate on public land regardless of whether people choose to slide down the mountain on skis or a snowboard,” he wrote.

Read the 10th U.S. Circuit Court’s ruling here: