10th District U.S. Court of Appeals Upholds Alta’s Snowboard Ban in Utah

To be clear, I am a skier.  I have no problem with snowboarders sharing the hill.  I have good friends and relatives who are snowboarders.  The advantages and disadvantages of each discipline is an age old debate that will not be taken up here.  However, the Federal Court of Appeals poured some fuel on that fire this week.

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The news out of the 10th District U.S. Court of Appeals will undoubtedly come as a huge disappointment to snowboarders.  The Court this week in a 3-0 ruling upheld Alta’s long running ban on snowboarding within the 2000 acre ski area.  The suit was originally dismissed by the U.S. District Court in September, 2014.  Although this is disappointing for snowboarders wishing to ride the legendary powder that Alta is famous for, its undoubtedly a victory for the three remaining resorts in the Country that ban snowboarding.

The suit was filed by a group of snowboarders called “Wasatch Equality” that formed to challenge snowboarding bans at ski areas on public land.  Alta operates most of its 2100 acres on Forest Service land leased to the resort.  Wasatch Equality argued that the snowboarding ban was discriminatory and denied snowboarders the equal opportunity to recreate on public lands.  The argument was based on a 14th Amendment equal protection theory.  Typically equal protection arguments are built around equal protection for protected classes such as gender, race, religion, and national origin.  This is the first time snowboarders have argued they should be considered a protected class under the law.  As a skier and a lawyer, I certainly admire the creative arguments advanced by Wasatch Equality.

The 10th Circuit’s ruling upholding the snowboarding ban was based largely on the fact that Alta had made the decision to ban snowboarding and not the Forest Service.

Alta, Utah, Deer Valley, Utah, and Mad River Glen, Vermont will for now remain the final holdouts in the Country that ban snowboarding within their resort boundaries.  Even if the law cannot force these resorts to change, it will be interesting to see if market forces and public opinion finish the job.

For now, Power to the Poachers!