The phased-out battle of snowboarders versus skiers is raging again after a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday in favor of Alta Ski Area east of Salt Lake City, Utah, upholding the resorts ban on snowboarding.
The case has been ongoing since 2014, when nonprofit organization Wasatch Equality, helmed by pro snowboarder Bjorn Leines, filed suit against Alta, stating that their ban violated the U.S. Equal Protection Clause. Fast forward two years later and a few appeals and the same big question remains: Does a private business (such as Alta) have the right to prohibit or discriminate specific users and access to federal public land that is being leased?
The 10th Court Circuit of Appeals states that Alta does have a right to continue upholding its ban on the basis that the U.S. Forest Service didn't influence the decision and therefore it wasn't a blanket "state action" that could have amounted to discrimination.
Bans have been attributed to marketing appeal in the past, with Alta’s slogan of “Alta Is For Skiers” and pushing the area as the toughest skiers-only mountain in the west. Management has claimed in the past that its guests simply don’t want to share the slopes with snowboarders, and it is in their best interest to cater to a more exclusive clientele. Only two other resorts in the country, Deer Valley (which is also just outside Salt Lake City) and Mad River Glen in Vermont still ban snowboarding. And it sure doesn't look like any of them will be changing their client-base anytime soon.
If the Court of Appeals had ruled in favor of lifting the ban, all three resorts would have to face questions on the legality of their bans. That ruling could also open the questions regarding use of all public land access, such as use-specific trails, where mountain bikes are not allowed.