In a case closely watched by ski resort officials because of its potential industry-wide consequences, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission has dismissed a woman’s complaint against Winter Park, CO ski area, which did not allow her service dog to ride a chairlift to the top of the mountain, reports The Denver Post.
In the first complaint of its kind in the history of the ski resort industry, former U.S. Army captain, CarrieAnn Grayson, filed a formal disability complaint against Winter Park last fall, arguing the resort should allow her service dog, Guinness, to ride a chairlift with her.
The director of the Colorado Civil Rights Division ruled against Grayson, arguing there was zero evidence of adverse treatment or discrimination when the ski area last year denied her service dog access to chairlifts for safety reasons. The ruling also notes that Grayson rode chairlifts at least 43 times at Winter Park the previous winter without her dog.
“The evidence suggests that there is a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason service animals are not permitted on chairlifts: namely, allowing unrestrained animals to ride open chairlifts, which can be suspended over 30 feet from the ground, poses a threat to the service dog, skiers, staff, and rescuers who might have to rescue an animal from a chairlift. The evidence does not suggest that (Grayson) requires such an accommodation.” –excerpt from ruling by Civil Rights Commission
Winter Park, home to the nearly 50-year-old National Sports Center for the Disabled, which offers outdoor adventures to a wide array of disabled visitors, offered to drive Grayson and her service dog to the top of the ski area last summer.
Very few ski areas allow service dogs on open chairlifts, but many do permit service animals on gondolas or trams. Owners of amusement parks also were observing the case, fearing that a ruling that allowed service animals on chairlifts could lead to increased access on amusement park rides, like roller coasters.