Alta is for Skiers | Judge Dismisses Snowboarders’ Lawsuit

Kyler Roush | | Industry NewsIndustry News
This is Alta
This is Alta.

Alta Ski Area is known for some of the deepest powder on the planet and its policy banning snowboarders from their lifts.  Because of this, Alta “Ski” Area has been in the cross-hairs of Snowboarders for years who wish they could ride the lifts, and now thanks to U.S. District Court Judge Dee Benson, Alta can breathe a sigh of relief.

If you haven’t been following the debate for nearly the last year, a group called Wasatch Equality has claimed their 14th Amendment rights were being violated by Alta Ski Area for not allowing them to use the ski lifts.

Now, if you payed attention in Freshman History class you know that the 14th Amendment is the Equal Protection clause.  It protects people from discrimination due to their: Age, Sex, Sexual Orientation, Religion, etc.

In Wasatch Equality’s case against Alta, they stated that they have a “Constitutional Right to Snowboard at Alta Ski Area.”  Their case also pointed out that Alta operates almost entirely on Public Lands operated by the Forest Service.

2,200 Snowboarder free acres.
2,200 Snowboarder free acres.

Early this summer, both Alta and the Forest Service responded to the lawsuit asking the U.S. District court to dismiss the case.  At the time Judge Benson denied the motions and put all proceedings on hold while he studied the case and weighed his options.  Now after several months of waiting Judge Benson has decided to dismiss the lawsuit entirely and issued a statement in regards to the failed lawsuit.

“To put it simply, Plaintiffs’ case fails because there is no law to support it.  The Equal Protection Clause is not a general fairness law that allows everyone who feels discriminated against to bring an action in federal court.”

He also provided some advice to the pursuers of the ill-fated lawsuit against Alta.

“There are many forums Plaintiffs can resort to in an attempt to accomplish their goal of snowboarding down the Baldy Chutes at Alta.  Seeking an injunction from this court is not one of them.”

The Baldy Chutes
The Baldy Chutes

Authors Note – Snowboarders can actually snowboard the Baldy Chutes.  They must be accessed from Snowbird though. (Which is the easiest way to get to them.)

Even the U.S. Attorney for Utah got into the action today releasing the following statement about the lawsuits dismissal.

“We are very pleased with the Court’s decision today dismissing the complaint filed by Wasatch Equality and the individual Plaintiffs.  We agree with the Court’s conclusion that Alta’s policy of prohibiting snowboards at the ski area did not violate the equal protection clause.  We also believe that the Court’s decision vindicates two important principles.  First, the court found that the Equal Protection Clause is not a general fairness law that allows anyone who feels discriminated against to bring an action in federal court.  Rather, the Equal Protection clause is enforced only against those actions which can fairly be attributed to the government and in this case, the court properly found that Alta’s snowboard policy was not fairly attributable to the Forest Service.

“Second, even if the snowboard policy was attributable to the Forest Service, the Court found that the United States has plenary power to make such discretionary decisions regarding the management of its public lands without being subject to review under the equal protection clause.  For example, the United States makes decisions as to which lands are open to mineral leasing, which lands are free from roads or motorized use, which lands allow hunting and fishing, and which lands should preclude them. Land management agencies simply could not function if every land use decision gave rise to an equal protection claim under the constitution.

We here at Snowbrains love all those who love to charge down a wide open mountain face, or techy no fall zone couloirs.  

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3 thoughts on “Alta is for Skiers | Judge Dismisses Snowboarders’ Lawsuit

  1. Great info thanks kyle, so I guess my only question is, if you drop the baldy chutes on a snowboard, and access them via the bird, do you have to unstrap and hike once you hit in bound terrain at Alta? Or possibly cut lookers right in the photo above and drop back into the bird?

    1. No, not at all. You could ride all the way to the bottom if that is what you want to do. You just can’t get on a lift, or use a split board to gain vertical.

      However, skiers aren’t allowed to tour up either. Alta does not allow uphill travel except on a couple cat tracks that gain access to backcountry areas.

      Anytime the gates between Snowbird and Alta are open anyone can come and go and ski or ride to the bottom.

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