The End to Snow-Separatism

The case for opening Alta, Deer Valley, and Mad River Glen to snowboarding

Gather 'round skiers, snowboarders, tele-skiers, bike-skiers... No, not you, snowbladers. PHOTO: Grant Gunderson

Gather ’round skiers, snowboarders, tele-skiers, bike-skiers… No, not you, snowbladers. PHOTO: Grant Gunderson

I've never liked skier-only resort policies. I love all three resorts that don't allow snowboarding, which is precisely why I don't like the policy. Half of my friends prefer to snowboard, and I would like to share my favorite places with the people I like the most.

And yet, especially after Alta filed a motion to dismiss a case brought against them by a group of snowboarders, I keep getting sucked into this argument—on the wrong side. By jerks calling good people Nazis. By a multimillion-dollar corporation paying a bounty to trespassers. By idiots who compare the struggles of Rosa Parks to not being able to use their over-priced, Chinese-made toy of choice at a private business permitted to operate on U.S. Forest Service land.

Today, I'm coming clean. I'm finally putting to mega-pixel an opinion I first started shopping around—and couldn't sell—to ski magazines back in 1998. It's time for Alta, Deer Valley, and Mad River Glen to allow snowboarding.


I want to be very clear about this: I don't mean it's time to make them allow snowboarding. I'm not implying that they are genocidal maniacs if they continue operating their businesses for skiers only. It's simply my opinion that the snow globe would be a happier place if snowboarders were allowed at every resort. It's 1998 2014; the stereotypes of the 1980s no longer apply.

I'm not going to give credence to every individual argument as to why snowboarding shouldn't be allowed at these three places, except to say that they would be dispelled after one lap. Good snowboarders will be able to handle the traverses, the terrain, the single chair, what-have-you. The bad ones won't, just like bad skiers. Last I checked, Taos hasn't crumbled to the ground.

The benefit is we'd be able to ski anywhere in the world with anyone we want. We'd no longer see Sage Kotsenburg's fans bickering with Deer Valley on Twitter and feel like we have to take a side. I'd be able to wear my Altaholics Anonymous shirt and not feel like I'm giving the middle finger to some of my best friends.

This isn't a one-way street, of course. It's time to end separatist marketing in winter sports altogether, and snowboard companies have a colorful history of driving a wedge between our two sports. For a long time, the credo was, if you can't think of anything good to say about your brand, say something bad about skiing. I've even seen snowboard divisions of ski brands try this tact.

Personally, I think Burton would do well to enter the ski market—perhaps by buying one of the ubiquitous core independent ski brands, much like they did with Channel Islands surfboards. But if the execs at Burton don't think it'll help their bottom line, well, they know a lot more about business than I do. They should still let little kids use skis in their Riglet Parks.

In fairness to Burton, it's been more than a half-decade since their Poach The Big Four marketing stunt, and in that time, most of the anti-ski banter has died off across the snowboard industry. Burton markets their eyewear brand (Anon) to skiers, but for the most part, they've decided their core business is snowboarding. I'm fine with that. Many snowboard brands don't venture under the ropes, so to speak, so as not to alienate their core base.


Deer Valley, Mad River Glen, and Alta are doing just fine as ski businesses as well—and have core customers of their own they want to stay loyal to. The difference is it would take almost no investment by the resorts to allow snowboarding, but it would go a long way in burying ill will between the sports—in ways that Burton Skis never could.

Snowboarders (or rather, small sects of snowboarders, as I know they don't represent the entire sport) don't do themselves any favors when they publicly flaunt the resorts' rules or call people Nazis or sue them. The irony is the majority of this vitriol is directed at the one resort of the three that has always been the least anti-snowboarding.

It's been a long-accepted practice for lodge workers at Alta who snowboard to duck the rope on Baldy and ride Alta's terrain back home from (though probably not anymore now that there's a lawsuit). MRG and Deer Valley have been clear about wanting to keep their no snowboarding policies intact and yet escape most of the name-calling. Meanwhile, the vibe I get from talking to people who work at Alta—mind you, this is purely speculation on my part—is that they would like to allow snowboarding, but on their own terms, and in a manner that won't alienate long-time customers who like the place the way it is. Yet with every over-the-top video, with every reference to the KKK or fascism, and now with this lawsuit, the resort is forced to dig its heels in deeper. And the long outdated stereotype that snowboarders are immature assholes is reinforced.

I hope my snowboarding friends are embarrassed by these stunts—the same way I'm embarrassed by the lame excuses skiers use to defend the snowboarding bans at any of these three resorts. You'd be hard-fought to find two sports, two cultures that are more similar than skiing and snowboarding. Our equipment is made in the same factories, of the same materials. We live in the same towns, drink at the same bars, wear the same clothes, date, have sex, get married, and have little inter-glisse kids together. We chase the same storms, for the same reasons, and when they hit, we travel to the same places.

That is, except three.