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At a Utah Resort, It’s Snowboarders vs. Skiers

A group of snowboarders suing one of the last U.S. ski resorts to prohibit snowboarding are arguing in a court filing this week that the ban is not only discriminatory and based on stereotypes, but encourages “hostile and divisive skier-versus-snowboarder attitudes.”

The snowboarders filed the lawsuit in January claiming discrimination on national forest lands that make up most of the Alta ski area in the mountains east of Salt Lake City.

The court battle has reignited a long-festering culture clash on the slopes between skiers and snowboarders.

Shaun White of the United States competes in the Snowboard Men's Halfpipe Qualification Heats
Shaun White of the United States competing in the Snowboard Men’s Halfpipe Qualification Heats for the 2014 Olympics. (Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Alta attorneys say the decision to promote a snowboarder-free experience to lure skiers is within the ski area’s rights and violates no constitutional rights. They said in a motion in April that the lawsuit degrades the U.S. Constitution and should be thrown out.

Lawyers for the four snowboarders point out in the new motion that skiers and snowboarders coexist and thrive together at most resorts around the world, making Alta’s ban irrational.

“This case is not about snowboards. Nor is it about skis. Indeed, it has little to do with equipment at all,” attorneys for four snowboarders wrote. “At its heart, this case is about Alta and the government arbitrarily classifying groups of people based on animus and other stereotypes and excluding those considered undesirable from benefits freely enjoyed by all others without giving any rational justification.”

Alta says skiers find the slopes more peaceful, safe and enjoyable because they don’t have to worry about being hit by snowboarders whose sideways stance leaves them with a blind spot that can make their wide, sweeping turns a danger to others on the slopes. Skiers, in contrast, don’t have any blind spots because the face forward as they speed down the slopes.

The U.S. Forest Service, which approves a permit for Alta, has backed the ski area in the court battle.

The two other resorts that ban snowboarding are Deer Valley, also in Utah, and Mad River Glen in Vermont.


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