Photo courtesy of Alta

A lawsuit was filed by four men against Alta for running its lifts, grooming its slopes and opening daily for skiers . . . free of snowboarders. 

The four men—Rick Alden, Drew Hicken, Richard Varga and Bjorn Leines—armed with snowboards, went challenge Alta's resolve. They knew what would happen. They wanted it to happen. They were hoping to be turned away. 

Fact is, Alta is open to snowboarders. They’re welcome to hike the slopes before the resort opens and after it closes. What Alden and the others want, however, is for Alta to make life easier by hauling them up the mountain by lifts Alta paid for and pays all expenses to operate, maintain and staff with money paid by skiers who have purchased passes over the past 75 years.

No rational reason for banning snowboarding on Alta’s slopes, says the suit. It also says, “The only difference between (skiing and snowboarding) is the orientation of a person’s feet on the skis or board.’’ Not true. How about the fact 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. 

Proof? Most of the skiers I know have had collisions or near collisions with snowboarders. I’ve 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 turned out of the fall-line to avoid a boarder. I’m much more vigilant when I ski where snowboarders are present.

Do I hate snowboarders? Not at all. I can lay claim to introducing roughly 4,000 new snowboarders to the sport here in Utah.

For roughly 40 years I represented the Deseret News as ski/snowboard editor/writer, and with it was responsible for the Deseret News/KSL Ski/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 after opening registration, there were 400-plus snowboarders registered for the first class. I say plus because it was so well received, we had more than the 400 students we planned for—more like 500. Snowbird agreed to teach all of them and the Deseret News agreed to pay the extra fees. 

I represented the 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 to retire. I’ve written about, tried, watched and covered snowboarding, and I have children that snowboard.

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’s another dozen or so in neighboring states. 

Do I believe skiers should have a place free from the worry of snowboarders? Yes. And there are only two—Alta and Deer Valley. 

As for Alden, Hicken, Varga and Leines, plaintiffs in the lawsuit, I don’t know if it’s really so much about snowboarding as it is about them.  

There’s reference in the suit to “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 reach. If my kids or grandkids want to snowboard and I want to ski, I go to resorts that allow both.

I doubt any of these four cares about the thousands of skiers who visit the resort to ski. It’s all about them. Selfish? I’d say so. Self serving? I’d say so. Concerned for others? I don’t think so. 

There are more than 350 ski areas in the United States open to snowboarders. Only three are not, including Mad River Glen in Vermont. It’s not like they 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.