Ski Resorts That Don't Allow Snowboards

snowboarder with mountains

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In the early 1980s, snowboards began appearing with increasing regularity on U.S. slopes. At first, resorts weren't sure how to deal with the new sport. Some required riders to pass a test proving they were capable of sharing the slopes safely with skiers. Others instituted outright bans on snowboards. Still, others resorted to segregation by limiting snowboards to specific areas of the hill. As snowboarding became more mainstream, the tests, bans and segregation policies fell by the wayside, with a few exceptions.

At the start of the 2017-2018 season, only three resorts continued to ban snowboarding outright - Mad River Glen in Vermont, Alta in Utah, and Deer Valley Resort, also in Utah. 

Latest Developments

In December of 2007, Burton Snowboards announced a contest designed to challenge the status quo, promising $5,000 to the creator of the best video documenting snowboarders "poaching" the slopes of each of the four resorts which continued to ban snowboarding. Reaction to the contest was mixed, with some in the industry applauding the in-your-face challenge to the bans, while others chastised Burton for what they saw as irresponsible behavior from a corporation. Nevertheless, within days of Burton announcing the contest, Taos Ski Valley in New Mexico declared they would lift the ban on snowboarding the following spring. 

Why Resorts Decided Against Allowing Snowboarding

When snowboarders first began to hit the slopes, resort ski schools had few if any snowboard instructors, so riders were largely self-taught. Most riders were young, wore baggy clothes that looked nothing like ski clothing, and were often viewed as having a bad attitude. Resorts had a valid argument at the time, labeling the ban on snowboards as a policy based on safety. With the advent of organized snowboard instruction, the creation of the American Association of Snowboard Instructors, and the inclusion in 1998 of snowboarding as an Olympic Sport, these arguments no longer apply. The three resorts that continue to ban snowboarding make it difficult, if not impossible, for families made up of both skiers and snowboarders to enjoy time together on the slopes.

Pros to Prohibiting Snowboarding

The reasoning behind the ban at Mad River Glen is easier to understand than those behind Alta's and Deer Valley's continued prohibition of snowboarding.

Mad River Glen is a quirky, throwback-style resort in the heart of the Green Mountains in Vermont. Access to the summit, even today, is only provided via a single-chair which, until being replaced by a new single-chair in 2007, originally ran, unchanged, since the 1940s. Based on this limitation, the resort claims snowboarders could not exit without causing problems for the chair. At one time, snowboarders were allowed ​the use of the other lifts at the resort, but this policy caused friction between riders and management. Following a series of legendary confrontations between snowboarders and owner Betsy Pratt, snowboarding was banned outright.

The reasons behind the bans at Alta and Deer Valley are more suspect. Deer Valley is known as the swankiest, most luxurious resort in the U.S., serving a clientele that demands the absolute best experience possible. Management claims that its guests simply don't want to share the slopes with snowboarders, who they view as unsophisticated, dangerous and disrespectful. Alta, on the other hand, is known as a hardcore skiers mountain, and they market themselves as the toughest skiers-only mountain in the west. For both Alta and Deer Valley, the snowboarding ban is based more on marketing than anything else.

Cons to Prohibiting Snowboarding

Snowboarding is no longer the rebellious, rogue sport threatening the future of our nation's children that it was once portrayed as. According to a 2004 survey by Leisure Trends Group, a research company out of Boulder, Colo., the number of snowboarders older than 35 rose 51 percent to nearly 1.1 million, up from 724,000 in 1997. Snowboarders are more likely to appear on Madison Avenue than Skid Row these days, with Jake Burton and Shaun White hawking product for American Express and Hewlett Packard. Time has proven the sport to be no more or less dangerous than skiing. Many skiers now split their time between skiing and snowboarding, unless they happen to be a guest at one of the three throwback resorts highlighted in this article. Additionally, many families are now made up of both skiers and snowboarders, which automatically eliminates these resorts when families decide where to spend their money.

Where It Stands

Despite the decision by Taos to lift their snowboarding ban, the other three resorts show no signs of following suit. Management at Alta and Deer Valley continue to cling to their archaic marketing angle, while Mad River Glen, which is owned by a cooperative of shareholders, looks as though it will keep a firm grip on its title of the most enigmatic operation in the U.S. As Mad River shareholder Jim Tynan says, “Our Single Chair, the cooperative ownership, the natural snow skiing, the non-commercial atmosphere, and the skiers-only policy are what make Mad River Glen special. We don’t want to end up being like every other ski area." 

These three resorts continue to act as a safe haven for the anti-snowboarder set. The skier vs. snowboarder war was rightfully put to sleep years ago, and the memo was sent far and wide. It's time Mad River Glen, Alta, and Deer Valley opened their eyes and read that memo. Let us in, guys. Let us in!

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