Salt Lake City, UT – Attorneys representing Alta Ski Area on Friday filed a motion for summary judgment, asking a U.S. District Court judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed by four snowboarders and a snowboard advocacy group claiming discrimination due to Alta’s ban on snowboarding.
In their lawsuit filed in January, the four snowboarders — Drew Hicken, Rick Alden, professional snowboarder Bjorn Leines, and Richard Varga — and Wasatch Equality contend that Alta’s snowboard ban violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. In their motion filed on Friday, Alta’s attorneys protest that the litigation “demeans the Constitution to suggest that the amendment that protected the interests of former slaves during Reconstruction and James Meredith and the Little Rock Nine must be expanded to protect the interests of those who engage in a particularized winter sport.
Attorneys also argue that it is Alta’s right to decide what equipment is allowed on its slopes, both for business and safety reasons, pointing out that the ski area’s lease with the U.S. Forest Service is silent on that issue. They cite the “blind spot” created by a snowboarder’s stance and the lengthy traverses for which Alta is famous, indicating that maintaining those traverses can be difficult on a snowboard.
They did not directly address the lawsuit’s further contention that Alta’s business policy fosters animus between skiers and snowboarders, but they do point out that snowboarders “can hardly claim they represent the kind of politically unpopular community that the Constitution was designed to protect.”
The newest motions filed in the lawsuit come just several days after Alta, in conjunction with six other Utah ski resorts and Ski Utah, unveiled the ONE Wasatch concept which they hope will ultimately link all seven resorts via lifts and ski runs. While some observers question the viability of such a plan if Alta and fellow ONE Wasatch resort Deer Valley maintain their bans on snowboarding, Alta is already linked with neighboring Snowbird, which does allow snowboarding. There have been few problems created by that business association, in effect since 2002, despite the equipment incongruity.
It was not immediately known when the Court might act on Alta’s motion.