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Utah's Alta ski resort defends snowboarding ban at federal appeals court

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SALT LAKE CITY — One of the last ski resorts in the country to prohibit snowboarding defended itself at a federal appeals court Friday from a lawsuit calling the ban unconstitutional.

Utah's Alta Ski Area argued in court documents that it's made a business decision to lure skiers to the private resort east of Salt Lake City with the promise of a snowboarder-free experience, and its well within its rights to keep snowboards off the slopes.

"Quite simply, the Constitution neither recognizes nor protects a right to snowboard," attorneys for the resort wrote in court documents. Alta attorneys have said skiers find the ski area more peaceful and safer because they don't have to worry about being hit by snowboarders whose sideways stance leaves them with a blind spot that can make their wide, sweeping turns a danger to others.

The U.S. Forest Service, which approves a permit for Alta, has backed the ski area in the court battle.

But the four snowboarders say the ban is based on outdated stereotypes and encourages divisive skier-versus-snowboarder attitudes. They argue that keeping snowboarders off the public forest land where most of the resort terrain is located is discrimination.

"Defendants have transformed public land into a private country club controlled by those exclusive, elitist, and discriminatory views," attorneys for the group Wasatch Equality wrote.

They're asking a federal appeals court to reinstate the case, which was dismissed last year by U.S. District Judge Dee Benson. He ruled that snowboarders don't have a constitutional right to practice their sport, and said allowing the lawsuit would open a wide door for many other groups to claim discrimination against private companies.

Both sides have asked the 10th Circuit Court to hear oral arguments, though no date has been set.

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

The case has reignited a long-festering culture clash on the slopes between skiers and snowboarders.

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