News: Free Alta or F*ck Alta, courts to decide

Published on Sunday, 19 January 2014 11:27 , Category: News Written by Chris Gallardo

Alta's ban on snowboarding has been in place for nearly 30 years and last week the ski area and it's owners were presented with a lawsuit by non-profit, Wasatch Equality. As a snowboarder and father of two snowboarders it's probably obvious which side we're on but to make it clear, we definitely feel that Alta should be for everyone. 

Being from California the ban hasn't had much direct effect on mine or my family's snowboarding but I do remember in the early 90's when Alpine Meadows had a similar ban on snowboarding. At the time I worked for Squaw Valley which is easily the best mountain in Tahoe so not being able to ride at Alpine was sorta moot. Fast-forward 20 years and I'm sure I'd feel much different if the ban was still in place. 

Being the publisher of a website that caters to a specific niche I get the whole "exclusivity" thing....but when it comes to the use of public lands the rules are different. The bottom line is that Alta operates approximately 85% of their business on Public Land yet they're allowed to ban and discriminate against another user group that should have the right to the same lands. 

While we don't claim to be land-use experts or lawyers, it's seems pretty straightforward to us. We wish Wasatch Equality the best in this fight and hope the courts make what we feel is the right decision. 

Read the press release below.

SALT LAKE CITY — Jan. 15, 2014 — Wasatch Equality, a Utah nonprofit corporation, and four individual snowboarders filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of Utah against Alta Ski Area and the United States Forest Service, seeking to permanently enjoin Alta from enforcing its anti-snowboarder policy and snowboarding ban. The plaintiffs also seek a declaration from the Court that Alta’s snowboarding prohibition, as enforced by the Forest Service, violates the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and is therefore unlawful. A copy of the Complaint can be found on Wasatch Equality’s website http://wasatchequality.org/lawsuit.

The plaintiffs are represented by Jonathan Schofield, attorney with Parr Brown Gee & Loveless. According to Schofield: “Alta is one of only three ski resorts in the United States that does not allow snowboarding, and Alta is the only one of these resorts that is operated on public land controlled by the Forest Service. Because of Alta’s relationship with the government, Alta’s actions must comply with the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause. Alta’s prohibition against snowboarders excludes a particular class of individuals from use and enjoyment of public land based on irrational discrimination against snowboarders, which denies them equal protection under the law as guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment.”

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’s refuses to allow certain members of the public from using its land. The Complaint alleges that when Alta set forth its snowboarder ban in the mid-1980s, its policy was initiated as a result of animus held by Alta’s ownership, management, and customers towards snowboarders, and that Alta continues to enforce its ban based on this animus. The Complaint further alleges that the reasons offered by Alta in support of its policy are a pretext and that there is no legitimate reason for Alta and the Forest Service’s continued denial of access to one group of people (snowboarders) while granting access to a similar group of people (skiers). Thus, according to the Complaint, Alta’s anti-snowboarder policy and snowboarding ban cannot be enforced.

Here's what some of the splitboard.com readers are saying in a thread on our forum.

And here's a related video about the topic from last year. I'm unsure if the folks that made the video are part of the lawsuit or not. The comments from some of Alta's customers show that discrimination and hate are alive and well there! Thumbs down.

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