Even as the snow sports season is winding down, the practically ancient debate over skier-only territory is as heated as ever. In January, an organized group of snowboarders made it official and brought a complaint against Alta in federal court. Alta is one of three American ski resorts that still ban snowboarding and Alta is the only one of those three leasing land from the government.
The motion stated that Alta’s exclusion of snowboarders violates the boarder’s 14th amendment right to use of public land, under the Equal Protection Clause. The group bringing the complaint, Wasatch Equality, is a non-profit, grass roots organization looking to “promote equality among skiers and riders,” according to their website. The group has taken a bilateral approach in the attempt to disable Alta’s policy—using both the court system and social media in attempts to force open the gates. Their website features an entire page of personal accounts and they are promoting the use of #Altaisforeveryone on Twitter.
After months without reaction, Alta filed a motion to dismiss the case in late March, citing flagrant misuse of the amendment. Alta’s lawyers reportedly said that it was “demeaning to the Constitution” to expand the amendment from it’s original intent: to protect freed slaves from discrimination.
Though the court decision is far from set, it seems the original lawsuit may have been in vain. The proposal of ONE Wasatch may do what the lawsuit cannot. ONE Wasatch is a plan to join all seven of the resorts in the immediate area, including skier-only resorts Alta and Deer Valley. In order for all resorts to truly be joined and available to boarders, Alta would need to change it’s policy, as it is between two resorts that allow snowboarding. Alta said that as ONE Wasatch starts to come together, the snowboarding ban would be “addressed.”
While Alta’s fight in court and simultaneous pledge to review the controversial policy baffle some, Derek Taylor at Powder Magazine seems to have it right in a recent article.
Meanwhile, the vibe I get from talking to people who work at Alta—mind you, this is purely speculation on my part—is that they would like to allow snowboarding, but on their own terms, and in a manner that won’t alienate long-time customers who like the place the way it is.
Ultimately a business arrangement could open Alta’s slopes to boarders, but for now, it looks like Alta will fight in the courts for the chance to make that decision on their own.