Ray Grass: Alta is for skiers, not snowboarders

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 4 2014 7:05 p.m. MST

Let's see, now, a lawsuit was filed by four men against Alta’s choosing to run its lifts, groom its slopes and open daily for skiers . . . free of snowboarders.

The four men -- Rick Alden, Drew Hicken, Richard Varga and Bjorn Leines -- armed with snowboards, went to Alta to challenge the resort’s resolve. They knew what would happen. They wanted it to happen. They were hoping to be turned away.

Fact is, Alta is open to snowboarders. They’re welcome to hike the slopes before the resort opens and after it closes. But the snowboarders in the suit want Alta to make their life easier by hauling them up the mountain. Lifts that skiers paid for.

Alta pays all of its operating, maintenance and staffing expenses with money paid to them by skiers who have purchased passes over the past 75 years.

No rational reason for banning snowboarding on Alta’s slopes, says the suit. It also says, “The only difference between (skiing and snowboarding) is the orientation of a person’s feet on the skis or board.’’

Not true. Somehow that fact wasn’t mentioned.

How about the fact that snowboarders have a “blind spot.’’ Skiers face forward and have good peripheral vision. Snowboarders face to the side and don’t have eyes in the back of their heads.

Proof? Most of the skiers I know have had collisions or near collisions with snowboarders. Myself, I’ve been knocked down twice by snowboarders traveling across a slope, only to get the departing excuse, “Sorry, I didn’t see you.’’

More times I’ve had to check my speed or turn out of the fall-line to avoid a boarder. I’m much more vigilant when I ski where snowboarders are presents.

Hate snowboarders? Not at all. Fact is I can lay claim to introducing roughly 4,000 new snowboarders to the winter sport here in Utah. True.

For roughly 40 years I represented the Deseret News as ski/snowboard editor/writer, and in that capacity I was responsible for the Deseret News/KSL Ski/Snowboard School. In 1999, I introduced the idea of adding snowboard instruction to the then 53-year-old ski school program at Alta.

In 2000, I negotiated with Snowbird to teach snowboarders and in less than a week of opening registration there were 400-plus snowboarders registered for the first class.

I say "plus" because it was so well received we had more than the 400 students we planned for. It was more like 500. And, Snowbird agreed to teach all 500 and the News agreed to pay the extra fees.

I represented the News’ interest in skiing and snowboarding until 2010 when it was decided -- after 63 years teaching skiing and 11 years teaching snowboarding -- it was time to retire.

I’ve also snowboarded, but prefer skiing. I’ve written about, tried, watched, covered, have children that snowboard and introduced snowboarding to a lot of Utahns.

Do I think snowboarders have a place in the winter schedule -- yes. There are 12 world class areas in Utah that welcome snowboarders and with cooperative passes added this year by resorts there’s another dozen or so in neighboring states. Do I believe skiers should have a place free from the worry of snowboarders -- yes. And there are only two -- Alta and Deer Valley.

As for Alden, Hicken, Varga and Leines, plaintiffs in the law suit, I don’t know if it’s really so much about snowboarding as it is about them.

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