Four snowboarders sue Alta Ski Area & the US Forest Service for the right to share the mountain

Comments by Kelli Lynn Hargrove/

sign2Four snowboards have filed a federal lawsuit against Alta Ski Area and the US Forest service, contesting Alta’s right to exclude snowboarders from their slopes. Citing the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause, the group has teamed up with Wasatch Equality to fight back against what they see as unlawful behavior. One of only three resorts in the US that bans snowboarding, Alta is the only resort operated on public land, owned by the US Forest Service. Thus, the fact that Alta is refusing to allow members of the public to use the land is illegal, according to the suit, and their anti-snowboarder policy should not be enforced.

“Snowboarding and skiing are wholesome, family-friendly activities, and there is no reason why they cannot coexist,” said Drew Hicken of Wasatch Equality. “We feel that it is time for Alta to let go of outdated prejudices that perpetuate a skier-versus-snowboarder mentality and allow everyone, regardless of whether they are skiers or snowboarders, to share the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.”

Read more in 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.