Alta asks judge to dismiss discrimination lawsuit filed by snowboarders

By McKenzie Romero, Deseret News

Published: Tue, June 24, 2014, 6:35 p.m. MDT

 Skiers take the slopes at Alta Ski Resort in Little Cottonwood Canyon near Salt Lake City.

Skiers take the slopes at Alta Ski Resort in Little Cottonwood Canyon near Salt Lake City.

(Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Alta Ski Area is asking a judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed by four snowboarders claiming discrimination is keeping them off the resort's skiers-only slopes.

Alta argued in the motion filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court of Utah that the quartet calling themselves Wasatch for Equality has attempted to misdirect the argument ever since the lawsuit was filed in January, claiming the popular Utah ski area's policies ban a certain class of people rather than specific equipment.

So long as the plaintiffs — Rick Alden, Drew Hicken, Bjorn Leines and Richard Varga — come to Alta with skis, they're welcome to hit the slopes, according to the 34-page filing.

"They have not come up with a single individual from this alleged class who, when adhering to Alta's simple equipment requirement, was denied access to Alta," the filing states. "The absence of any such allegations is telling and fatal to plaintiffs' claim."

Alta went on to argue that snowboarders as a group are not afforded constitutional protection.

A lawyer for the snowboarders said earlier this year that because of Alta Ski Area's arrangement with the U.S. Forest Service, it must comply with the equal protection clause in the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The Forest Service is also named as defendant.

In 1986, Beaver Mountain, Brighton and Park West (now The Canyons) were the only Utah resorts that allowed snowboarders on their chairlifts. Since then, all but Alta and Deer Valley have followed suit. Mad River Glen in Vermont is the third American resort that doesn't permit snowboarding.

By 1990, most major ski areas around the country allowed snowboarding, which became one of the fastest-growing winter sports.

Hicken said in January there is no reason skiing and snowboarding can't coexist.

"We feel that it is time for Alta to let go of outdated prejudices that perpetuate a skier versus snowboarder mentality and allow everyone, regardless of whether they are skiers or snowboarders, to share the mountain together," he said.

Email: mromero@deseretnews.com, Twitter: McKenzieRomero

1. Sandy
Salt Lake City, UT,
June 24, 2014

Be strong, O Albion! Stay true, noble Alta! Ski only, now and forevermore!!!

2. Brave Sir Robin
San Diego, CA,
June 24, 2014

This is an open-and-shut case. First, snowboarders are not a protected class (like race, religion, gender, etc.). Second, there is a long precedent of access being restricted on certain modes of travel on public lands (Forest Service trails with restrictions on horse travel, mountain bikes, ATV's, etc. are common). Third, Alta's lease effectively means the public land becomes private during ski season - that's why they're allowed to charge "admission" and police the area with a private police force (ski patrol).

3. Seldom Seen Smith
Orcutt, CA,
June 24, 2014

If my grandmother can learn how to snowboard, these guys can learn how to ski. On the other hand, she was born pre victim mentality.

4. Vladhagen
Salt Lake City, UT,
June 25, 2014

If these people get to bring their snowboards, I want to be allowed my sledding disk on the hills. How about an ATV! Downhill ATVing is really fun and I feel heavily put out that Alta is so bigoted that they refuse admission to my disks and tractor.

Such a waste of tax dollars.

5. Max
Upstate, NY,
June 25, 2014

This will go into the law school curriculum as a the prime example of a frivolous law suit -- if they are really serious about this. On the other hand, it could be a spoof. It is difficult to tell.