One Plank or Two Planks, That’s the Question
Over the past couple of years rumors have spread of a snowboarding ski patroller that bombed shoots from Mount Baldy of Snowbird Ski Resort into the Alta Ski Area. It couldn’t be possible, as Alta does not allow snowboarders. Yet, the rider was seen adorned with the ski patroller snowflakes characteristic of Alta patrollers. Nevertheless, these rumors have been resolved as news spread that it was a marauder of the newly established Alta Snowboard Team. The Alta Snowboard Team, led by Mica Brownlie, has launched a campaign to bring snowboarding to Alta.
When Brownlie came to Alta 12 years ago, he could not understand the reason for the snowboarding ban. So, he started the Alta Snowboard Team. In the past couple of years the team has become more serious about its purpose. Brownlie defines the team as a group of goofy, loosely affiliated riders sharing a joke while also competing at the highest level of snowboarding. Their goal is to sway opinions regarding snowboards at Alta.
Following the posting of the YouTube video "S#$t Alta Skiers Say," showcasing many Alta skiers divulging their two-cents on snowboarding, Brownlie feels Alta’s policy has become a matter of segregation.
“Watching and listening to the bigotry of the video makes me wonder what I could relate the anti-snowboarding sentiment to,” said Brownlie. “ Is this similar to the feelings and perception towards motorcycles mid-twentieth century? Or Surfers? Or Skateboarders? Or Jazz Musicians?”
“I've worked in Alta for over 10 years and have been overhearing the secret thoughts of dining skiers when they think no one is listening,” said Brownlie. "It has been a 12 year, stretched-out version, of 'S#$t Alta Skiers Say....,' and I was amazed that I have actually heard just about every one of those lame excuses."
Despite the negativity of many skiers in the video, there was a time when snowboarding was allowed in limited areas at Alta. Back in the 1970s as snowboarding was just starting, it was permitted, and Alta, like many resorts, did not know what to think of the sport. This only lasted about one ski season after which, Alta’s management decided it was important to stick with the resort’s roots and reputation as just a ski area, thus prompting the snowboarding ban.
Alta Ski Area chooses to exclude snowboarders for reasons contrary to what many of the skiers in the YouTube video have expressed.
Connie Marshall, the director of Marketing and Public Relations for Alta says it’s more about the history of the resort.
“We were the second ski area in the west to offer lift service skiing, and because of this a lot of early powder skiing technique was developed here and would become the technique used by Ski Instructors of America,” said Marshall. “So, early on we had deep roots in the skiing tradition. After allowing snowboarding for a little we decided that we should do what we do well and move forward with just skiing.”
Although there are many different perceptions of snowboarders, Marshall says they are irrelevant in this debate as it’s just a business decision, there is a target market large enough to sustain the current business model.
“There are many decisions that we make because of who we (the resort) are, from the price of the tickets to where we place lifts on the mountain,” said Marshall. “Either people think they would prefer to come here because of who we are and what we offer; or, they may choose not to come here for the very same reason.”
Overall, Marshall feels that there is mixed sentiment toward snowboarding at Alta. Some people love having a skiers only mountain for the exclusivity, while others wish snowboarding was allowed in order to ride with all of their friends.
In Brownlie’s opinion it shouldn’t matter what you ride, but instead how you ride it and act.
“Skiing is fun, snowboarding is fun. Skateboarding, fun. Inline-skating, fun. Sledding, fun. Sliding, fun. I personally enjoy sliding across the floor in wool socks,” said Brownlie. “It's all just fun. That has long been something I've tried to share with people.”
Despite Brownlie’s and the Alta Snowboard Team’s efforts, Marshall says that it’s another voice they can listen to, but at this point, she does not feel this is what will influence change. There are many places to snowboard, so what it comes down to is choosing the place that is most appealing.
For those that ultimately must snowboard Alta there is still a way. The resort allows riders to hike the mountain during the pre and post season as well as snowboard down through the gates marking the boundary with neighboring Snowbird Resort.