Skiers Rule, Snowboarders not Welcome: the Alta Ultimatum

By: Andrew Regan

In the early 80s, less than 10% of all ski resorts in the USA permitted access to snowboarders. Nowadays, just 4 anti-snowboard resorts remain. As snowboarding entered the main stream - going from a renegade fad to becoming an Olympic sport - resorts across the world have embraced snowboarding customers.

And why not? Skiing was getting stale, and snowboarding was attracting a whole new generation of snow sports enthusiasts who had no previous interest in the two-plank discipline. The more foresightful ski resorts quickly realised that by promoting snowboarding, and building areas called terrain parks which had specially made jumps, they could reap the financial rewards. It wasn't long before the idea spread to other resorts and people realised that rather than being a fad to be shunned, snowboarding was a cash cow waiting to be milked.

But Alta, a renowned ski resort in Utah's Salt Lake City, remains strongly opposed to the snowboard movement and in doing so, has become a bone of contention in snowboarding circles, yet worshipped by many of the older skier generation, in equal zeal. Snowboarders' opinions vary from bitterness to apathy; some don't care and are happy to take their business elsewhere; yet for others, Alta's reluctance to modernise, represents an almost politically incorrect discrimination, on a par with sexism and racism, and is something which should have been stamped out long ago.

Indeed, the skier-snowboarder rivalry has for the large part disappeared from the slopes of the world. Anyone who has spent extended time skiing or snowboarding can tell you that whatever animosity once existed has long since faded, and the only place the feud still manifests itself is in the pages of tabloid type media which seek to stir up a story whenever a skier and snowboarder have any type of collision on the slope. The truth in these matters is almost always invariably down to fact that one or both were beginners, rather than having anything to do with their chosen snow sport.

No one knows how long the slopes, ski chalets and hotels in Salt Lake City will be waiting for snowboarders to arrive, but for the foreseeable future, Alta is sticking to its snow guns and remains the last line of defence for die-hard skiers, who still pine for the time when the slopes were free of the 'reckless snowboard hoodlum'; the fact that Alta have just brought out a new "no-snowboarders" t-shirt suggests that the two-planks brigade have no plans to change their skiers-only policy any time soon.

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