SALT LAKE CITY -- A reignited culture clash between snowboarders and skiers didn’t come to an immediate conclusion Monday after boarders suing one of the last ski resorts in the country to prohibit their hobby argued in a Utah courtroom that the ban is discriminatory and based on outdated stereotypes.
U.S. District Judge Dee Benson didn’t immediately rule on the Utah resort’s request to throw out the lawsuit, and there’s no immediate deadline for him to do so.
The Alta ski area, which sits on mostly federally owned land in the mountains east of Salt Lake City, said a snowboarder-free hill is safer and the sport is a choice so the riders shouldn’t have special protection under the law.
Alta says it is a private business and its permit with the U.S. Forest Service allows it to restrict ski devices it deems risky. Snowboarders can be dangerous because their sideways stance leaves them with a blind spot, resort attorneys contend.
The U.S. Forest Service agrees and says the suit could open up the floodgates for people who don’t like rules on public lands.
But the snowboarders say they can’t legally be barred boarders from the national forest land and their constitutional rights were being violated.
"At its heart, this case is about Alta and the government arbitrarily classifying groups of people based on animus and other stereotypes and excluding those considered undesirable from benefits freely enjoyed by all others without giving any rational justification," attorneys for four snowboarders wrote.
The snowboarders claim the ski area dislikes their baggy clothes, overuse of such words as "gnarly" and "radical" when describing difficult terrain, and what it deems reckless activity.
Alta says the lawsuit degrades the Constitution.
"It 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," resort attorneys wrote.
The four plaintiffs bought tickets to Alta knowing they would be turned away and could then sue, which they did in January. One even sneaked onto a lift using "split boards" -- a snowboard that resembles skis -- but was intercepted and escorted down the mountain.
Two other U.S. resorts ban snowboarding: Deer Valley, also in Utah, and Mad River Glen in Vermont.