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Opinion: Alta is for skiers — not snowboarders

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Opinion: Alta is for skiers — not snowboarders

By Ray Grass, Contributor | Posted - Feb. 4, 2014 at 1:14 p.m.

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The opinions included in this article are those of the author's and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of LAKE CITY — A lawsuit was recently filed by four men against Alta because the resort chooses 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 were hoping to be turned away. And they wanted to fight it because Alta is built on public property and they thought it illegal that they were discriminated against as snowboarders.

But, the 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.

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

However, that is not entirely true. 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. Most of the skiers I know have had collisions or near collisions with snowboarders. I myself, have 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 present because it is more dangerous.

So do I or other skiers hate snowboarders? Not at all. I can lay claim to introducing roughly 4,000 new snowboarders to the winter sport here in Utah. For roughly 40 years I represented the Deseret News as a ski/snowboard editor and writer, and in that capacity I was responsible for the Deseret News/KSL Ski and 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. Snowbird agreed to teach all 500 and the Deseret News agreed to pay the extra fees.

I represented the Deseret 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 for me to retire.

I have 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 are another dozen or so in neighboring states. But, do I believe skiers should have a place free from the worry of snowboarders? Yes. And there are only two — Alta and Deer Valley.

The lawsuit references that Alta's ban on snowboarding “hurts Utah tourism” and “family values.’’ Go to Alta or Deer Valley and ask how many “tourists’’ are there because there are no snowboarders. The reference to family values, I’m afraid, is a real stretch because if my kids or grandkids want to snowboard and I want to ski, I go to resorts that allow both. Simple.

There are more than 350 ski areas in the United States open to snowboarders with only three that aren’t, including Mad River Glen in Vermont. It’s not like snowboarders don’t have slopes to board.

As for me, if there was a resort closed to skiers here in Utah, I’d wish it and snowboarders well.

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