Alta asks judge to dismiss discrimination lawsuit filed by snowboarders

Published: Tuesday, June 24 2014 9:13 p.m. MDT

Skiers take the slopes at Alta Ski Resort in Little Cottonwood Canyon near Salt Lake City.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — Alta Ski Area is asking a judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed by four snowboarders claiming discrimination is keeping them off the resort's skiers-only slopes.

Alta argued in the motion filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court of Utah that the quartet calling themselves Wasatch for Equality has attempted to misdirect the argument ever since the lawsuit was filed in January, claiming the popular Utah ski area's policies ban a certain class of people rather than specific equipment.

So long as the plaintiffs — Rick Alden, Drew Hicken, Bjorn Leines and Richard Varga — come to Alta with skis, they're welcome to hit the slopes, according to the 34-page filing.

"They have not come up with a single individual from this alleged class who, when adhering to Alta's simple equipment requirement, was denied access to Alta," the filing states. "The absence of any such allegations is telling and fatal to plaintiffs' claim."

Alta went on to argue that snowboarders as a group are not afforded constitutional protection.

A lawyer for the snowboarders said earlier this year that because of Alta Ski Area's arrangement with the U.S. Forest Service, it must comply with the equal protection clause in the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The Forest Service is also named as defendant.

In 1986, Beaver Mountain, Brighton and Park West (now The Canyons) were the only Utah resorts that allowed snowboarders on their chairlifts. Since then, all but Alta and Deer Valley have followed suit. Mad River Glen in Vermont is the third American resort that doesn't permit snowboarding.

By 1990, most major ski areas around the country allowed snowboarding, which became one of the fastest-growing winter sports.

Hicken said in January there is no reason skiing and snowboarding can't coexist.

"We feel that it is time for Alta to let go of outdated prejudices that perpetuate a skier versus snowboarder mentality and allow everyone, regardless of whether they are skiers or snowboarders, to share the mountain together," he said.

Email: mromero@deseretnews.com, Twitter: McKenzieRomero

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