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Judge weighs rare ban on snowboarding in ski area

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FILE - In this Feb. 19, 2013, file photo, young skiers ride the conveyor belt on Little Grizz at Alta Ski Resort in Little Cottonwood Canyon near Salt Lake City. A group of snowboarders suing to get access to Alta ski area are headed to court. The snowboarders say the ban on riding national forest land violates their constitutional rights. Alta attorneys argue snowboarding is dangerous and the suit "demeans the Constitution." (AP Photo/The Deseret News, Jeffrey D. Allred, File) SALT LAKE TRIBUNE OUT; MAGS OUT. MANDATORY CREDIT

FILE – In this Feb. 19, 2013, file photo, young skiers ride the conveyor belt on Little Grizz at Alta Ski Resort in Little Cottonwood Canyon near Salt Lake City. A group of snowboarders suing to get access to Alta ski area are headed to court. The snowboarders say the ban on riding national forest land violates their constitutional rights. Alta attorneys argue snowboarding is dangerous and the suit “demeans the Constitution.” (AP Photo/The Deseret News, Jeffrey D. Allred, File) SALT LAKE TRIBUNE OUT; MAGS OUT. MANDATORY CREDIT

SALT LAKE CITY — Snowboarders suing one of the last ski resorts in the country to prohibit snowboarding will argue Monday in a Utah courtroom that the ban is discriminatory and based on outdated stereotypes.

They say the Alta ski area can’t legally bar boarders from the federally owned land that makes up most of the resort in the mountains east of Salt Lake City. But the business says a snowboarder-free hill is safer and the ban doesn’t violate anyone’s constitutional rights.

“This case is not about snowboards. Nor is it about skis. Indeed, it has little to do with equipment at all,” attorneys for four snowboarders wrote. “At its heart, this case is about Alta and the government arbitrarily classifying groups of people based on animus and other stereotypes and excluding those considered undesirable from benefits freely enjoyed by all others without giving any rational justification.”

Alta wants U.S. District Judge Dee Benson to dismiss the lawsuit.

“It demeans the Constitution to suggest that the amendment that protected the interests of former slaves during Reconstruction and James Meredith and the Little Rock Nine must be expanded to protect the interests of those who engage in a particularized winter sport,” resort attorneys wrote.

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. Snowboarders can be dangerous because their sideways stance leaves them with a blind spot, resort attorneys contend. The Forest Service agrees.

The snowboarders claim the ski area dislikes their baggy clothes, overuse of such words as “gnarly” and “radical” when describing difficult terrain, and what it deems reckless activity.

The four plaintiffs bought tickets to Alta knowing they would be turned away and could then sue, which they did in January. One even sneaked onto a lift using “split boards” — a snowboard that resembles skis — but was intercepted and escorted down the mountain.

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

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