According to Fox 13, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard the claims of Wasatch Equality, a group of local snowboarders, that has sued the U.S. Forestry Service and Alta, UT for banning snowboarding on resort property, claiming that it violates the 14th Amendment. That amendment consists of granting all people within the United States “equal protection” under the law. The Equal Protection claim has been used in cases that involved discrimination against race, gender, religion, and same-sex marriage.
“Utah is a family state. All our families snowboard. We would like to be able to go to the best resort in the world and share that experience,” stated Drew Hicken, one of the plaintiffs.
The Wasatch Equality attorneys claim that they aren’t trying to create their own class of Equal Protection, but they claim that they are being discriminated against by being banned from riding on what is considered to be public land. The three judge panel is attempting to decide whether or not they should revive the lawsuit against Alta and the U.S. Forestry Service that was dismissed in 2014 by a Federal Judge in Salt Lake City. The real concern is whether or not Wasatch Equality could pass a bias test and if they have the ability to prove that the government is the cause of discrimination, not Alta.
“This case is about equipment. It’s not about people. It’s about a board. They’re the same person, the same beliefs, same race, gender, speech, clothing, cultural group,” said Alta Ski Area attorney Rick Thaler.
The U.S. Forestry Service stated that there are over 100 other recreational areas in the nation where snowboarding is allowed and that they are not involved with operating a ski resort. Alta is currently managing public lands, providing them with a little leeway in deciding what to do with it. While Jonathan Schofield, an attorney for Wasatch Equality, argued that the government declared that the land that Alta leases would be used for skiing and other winter sports. The judges on the 10th Circuit Panel took case under advisement and are expected to reach a verdict in the coming months.
“There is no coercive behavior on the part of the government against snowboarders at Alta,” assistant U.S. Attorney Jared Bennett argued.
Alta is one of the oldest ski resorts in the United States, it opened its doors in 1939. The historic ski area is known for being one of the last three ski areas in the United States to prohibit snowboarding on the premises. The other two ski areas that prohibit snowboarding include Deer Valley and Mad River Glenn. Alta offers up some superb terrain and they receive a season average snowfall of 551″, so its pretty obvious why snowboarders want to have the ability to ride there. Ata is know as the “skier’s mountain” and for now, it looks it will stay that way.