Appeals court backs ban on snowboarders at Utah ski resort

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A federal appeals court on Tuesday backed a ban on snowboarders at a Utah ski resort, saying the private business has a right to remain one of the last resorts in the nation to ban the activity.

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals made the ruling while dismissing a lawsuit filed by a group of snowboarders against Alta Ski Area outside Salt Lake City.

The snowboarders had argued that it was discriminatory to stop them from shredding its slopes at the resort located largely on public land.

The Denver-based court disagreed and sided with Alta. It said the private company can make the decision even though the U.S. Forest Service, a government agency, grants the resort a lease.

The snowboarders' lawyer, Jon Schofield, said the case has brought attention to the rule, even though his clients lost.

"At this point, we can only hope that Alta will one day voluntarily join the vast majority of ski resorts by lifting its snowboarding ban," Schofield said in a statement.

Alta attorney Rick Thaler said the resort is pleased with the ruling and feels the justices got it right.

Two other resorts ban snowboarding: Deer Valley in Utah and Mad River Glen in Vermont.

In arguments before the justices, the snowboarders and their attorneys had pointed to 119 other ski resorts that operate on public land and allow snowboarding. They said the ban stems from a powder culture clash where snowboarders are falsely stereotyped as reckless and inconsiderate.

They appealed after a federal judge in Utah threw out their case in 2014. That judge found snowboarders don't have a constitutional right to practice their sport and said allowing the lawsuit would be a slippery slope for many other groups to claim discrimination against private companies.

Lawyers for Alta have argued that the resort is allowed to discriminate against equipment, not the people using it.

The U.S. Forest Service has backed the resort. The agency's lawyers pushed back against discrimination claims by pointing out that the Forest Service has approved hundreds of permits for snow areas that allow snowboarding.