If you’re up on your snow sports news, then you know that back in January a group of snowboarders filed a lawsuit against Alta Ski Resorts ban on snowboarding from their mountain. This past week they finally took to the courts. The Wasatch Equality Group argued that Alta was violating their 14th Amendment rights by keeping snowboarders from their terrain, while Alta argued that the 14th Amendment does not contain a “right to snowboard” and that restricting equipment use on public land is within their rights. While the turnout still remains unknown, the topic has sparked controversy and discussion everywhere, notwithstanding our office.
When this topic first came up, I think a few of my coworkers assumed which side I’d be on. I’m an extremely avid and passionate snowboarder who generally has a pretty strong opinion. They were sure I’d get all fired up, and had this been about 10 years ago they’d probably be correct. I remember seeing Burton’s “Power to the Poachers” videos of people riding Alta, Taos and the others and thinking how crazy and unfair it was that we couldn’t ride there. Now, while I still think it’s ridiculous, I guess I just don’t really care.
Don’t let this confuse you. My lack of interest does not mean I am at all agreeing with Alta’s dated way of thinking, I’ve just come to realize that it doesn’t really bother me that much. Why? Let’s start with terrain. The Wasatch Range is home to 11 resorts with a wide variety of terrain, only 2 of which cannot be accessed by snowboarders (Alta and Deer Valley).
From Salt Lake City alone 20 minutes can get you to 3 world class resorts, while an extra 20 more minutes can get you to another 4 or 5. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not comparing the terrain at Alta to that of Park City or The Canyons, but Alta does have Snowbird pretty much in its backyard. Though I’ve never been allowed to ride there, I assume that being in the same canyon it has some similar characteristics to Snowbird which is an amazing place to ride. That being said, I’ll gladly give Snowbird my business.
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but lift tickets aren’t getting any cheaper either. Many resorts, Alta included, are charging upwards of $100 for a lift ticket. So why would I want to give my hard earned money to a business that doesn’t even want me there? I wouldn’t. I’d rather give it to a resort that supports my sport and my culture and gives back to it through events and such. If Wasatch Equality wins, would I rush out to Alta, who’s fought so hard to keep me out? I sure wouldn’t, and quite honestly it would probably take a lot to win my business over from Snowbird or one of the other surrounding resorts.
What about the atmosphere? As a kid, I remember going to a pool that used to have “adult swim” every hour for 15 minutes or so. It used to drive me crazy, having to climb out and wait until I was allowed back in. When I was in my teens I figured I was plenty old enough to be included so I’d stay in the water, only to receive glares and looks of annoyance by the adults leaning against the pool walls with drinks in hand. In a way it’s the same. Here’s a collection of people who go to Alta, some of them specifically because they do not want to be around snowboarders. Why would I want to surround myself with these people or this atmosphere? To me, it’s just not worth it. If they don’t want me there, why would I want to be there? I’d rather seek out a more inviting and inclusive atmosphere where I can enjoy the mountain however I please. Again, Alta just doesn’t seem that special to me.
Now earlier in this post, I referenced Alta’s thought process as being dated, so let’s elaborate on that a bit. Alta states “safety and terrain issues” as their reason for denying use to those on boards, but let’s just call it what it is. Snowboarding was once a very young sport and skiers looked at snowboarders as disrespectful punk kids hell bent on defying authority. Places like Alta and Taos wanted an atmosphere where they simply didn’t have to deal the issue. Well guess what? Those days are over. Snowboarding has matured and those punk kids? Yeah, they still exist, but half of them are on twin tips now. As it turns out; it has nothing to do with what they’re riding, but rather their age. Kids are kids. Parents drop them off at resorts and let them do whatever they want. Teenagers use the mountain as a hang out spot after school. Skiers or snowboarders, it doesn’t matter. Snowboarder’s aren’t the problem, a lack of parenting or teaching kids how to be respectful in public is the problem. The new reality is that the age old skier vs snowboarder battle is hardly even relevant anymore.
So go ahead Alta, keep the multisport families from taking their next trip to your resort. Keep your exclusivity in an industry that’s losing participation rates to video games and computers. Keep fighting those people who want to pay you their hard earned cash to ride your lifts and stay at your lodge. In the meantime, you’ll know where to find me. I’ll be right down the road enjoying myself at one of your competitors.