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No ruling on Utah ski area's rare snowboarding ban

SALT LAKE CITY — A culture clash between snowboarders and skiers didn't get an immediate resolution Monday after boarders suing one of the last ski resorts in the United States to prohibit their hobby argued in a Utah courtroom that the ban is discriminatory and based on outdated stereotypes.

U.S. District Judge Dee Benson didn't rule on the resort's request to throw out the suit, and there's no deadline for him to do so.

The Alta ski area, which sits on mostly federally owned land in the mountains east of Salt Lake City, said a snowboarder-free mountain is safer for skiers. The sport is a choice, so boarders shouldn't get special protection under the Constitution, resort attorney Robert Rice argued.

Alta says it is a private business and its permit with the U.S. Forest Service allows it to restrict ski devices it deems risky. Resort attorneys contend snowboarders can be dangerous because their sideways stance leaves them with a blind spot.

But snowboarders claim the resort bans them because it doesn't like their baggy clothes, overuse of words like "gnarly" and "radical," and perceived risky behavior on the slopes.

"This case is not about equipment, it's not about skiing and snowboarding," attorney Jon Schofield argued. "It's about deciding you don't like a group of people, you don't want to associate with that group of people, and you're excluding them."

Under questioning from the judge, Schofield conceded that there is little legal precedent for the case but said the lawsuit should have a chance to be heard.

Outside the courthouse, one of the plaintiffs, Rick Alden, said the ban inflames tensions between skiers and snowboarders in a way that doesn't exist elsewhere.

The Forest Service agrees with the resort about the risks of snowboarding and says the suit could open up the floodgates for people who don't like recreational rules on public lands, including sometimes controversial all-terrain vehicle laws.

Two other U.S. resorts, both on private land, ban snowboarding: Deer Valley, also in Utah, and Mad River Glen in Vermont.

No ruling on Utah ski area's rare snowboarding ban 08/11/14 [Last modified: Monday, August 11, 2014 10:53pm]
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