Which Ski Resorts Ban Snowboarders & Why? (Can it be Justified)

by Anthony Schwabe | Posted On: August 5th, 2022
ban snowboarders

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Compared to skiing, snowboarding is still a relatively new invention. Its popularity caused many resorts to eventually accept the new sport and adopt snowboarders onto their slopes. However, there are still a few resorts out there that haven’t conceded – which are they and why? 

Almost every ski resort has allowed snowboarding since its continued popularity. Alta, Deer Valley, and Mad River Glen are the only ski resorts that still have snowboarding bans in place. These resorts all believe snowboarders disrupt the peace and quiet their clients seek when coming to their slopes. 

Top Ski-Only Resorts

Ski-only resorts are becoming a thing of the past as snowboarding becomes more popular and less ostracized by the skiing community. These are the last remaining handfuls of ski-only resorts in the world and their reasoning for having these policies: 

1. Alta, Utah

skiing Alta
Photo by Ian Irving licensed under CC BY 2.0

Alta Ski Area is the first ski-only resort on our list. It’s one of the best resorts in North America, rated exceptionally high for its fantastic skiing and beautiful views.  

Alta has held their ground for many years regarding this ban. The resort has stated that their skiing clients come to them to enjoy the more peaceful slopes as a result of an absence of snowboarders. 

Because of how good the resort is, Alta is no stranger to the kinds of outrage a ban like this can cause. They’ve actually defended their choice to ban snowboarders a number of times in court, each time being successful. 

The most recent occasion saw the court permitting them to continue to reserve the right of admission to their slopes as a business.  Luckily for snowboarders, Snowbird is right next door to Alta and offers quite a similar terrain for them to enjoy. 

Other than Snowbird, there are countless ski resorts in the rest of Utah that feature the phenomenal skiing and snowboarding that the state is so famous for. 

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2. Deer Valley, Utah

deer valley
Photo by Devin Stein licensed under CC BY 2.0

Deer Valley takes Alta’s purist ideals and upscales them to suit the upper class. Deer Valley is a very lavish resort, offering the best of the best amenities at a considerable cost. 

Exclusivity is the most obvious reason for Deer Valley banning snowboarding. The guests here are paying large sums to get the slopes all to themselves, and somewhat understandably, they should be allowed to do so. 

There are plenty of other excellent resorts in Utah, so if the wealthy choose to spend that extra premium on a ski-only resort, it isn’t the end of the world for snowboarders. 

Park City is the obvious choice for snowboarders in the area looking to hit the slopes. And they won’t be disappointed – Park City is fantastic!

3. Mad River Glen, Vermont

Mad River Glen
Photo by flo21 licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Mad River Glen being a ski-only resort isn’t as significant a loss as Alta or Deer Valley. The ski area itself is much smaller, although the skiing is quite good. 

According to Mad River Glen’s snowboarding policy, the resort prohibited snowboarders sometime between 1991 and 1992 after confrontations between the resort’s owner, Betsy Pratt, and a number of local snowboarders. 

Since then, the ban has stayed in place, although Mad River Glen insists that it’s nothing personal and only for the benefit of the ski area’s terrain. 

While skiing in Vermont isn’t as plentiful as in other states, there are definitely great options throughout the state for snowboarders to fall back on. 

4. Vail Resorts

Vail
Vail – Photo by Colin Davis licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Vail Resorts CEO Robert Katz had snowboarders across the world worried in 2019 after he announced that Vail Resorts was planning to implement a snowboarding ban across all 19 resorts owned by Vail Resorts!

Thankfully, this turned out to be an April Fool’s joke – much to the snowboarding community’s relief.  This would’ve been an enormous blow to snowboarders as Vail Resorts offers some of the best skiing in North America, making them a choice destination for many snowboarders across the world.  

Why Do Some Resorts Not Allow Snowboarders?

not allow snowboarders

While only a few resorts in the world still ban snowboarders, they all tend to have the same reasoning. These resorts want to withhold their terrain for skiing purists, and in their opinion, this doesn’t account for snowboarders. 

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While snowboarders and even some skiers will argue that the ban is simply a result of outdated biases, proponents like those found at Alta, Deer Valley, and Mad River Glen all believe snowboarders present a risk to the slopes and others. 

The most common reason for this is the alleged blind spot snowboarders have due to their sideways stance. Although, this seems to largely be a case of misunderstanding. Competent snowboarders are able to account for this small blind spot by being particularly vigilant in high-traffic areas like converging trails.  

Some resorts also believe that snowboarders are detrimental to the slopes themselves. This is because of things like the harder carving many snowboarders enjoy doing. That being said, skiers are capable of doing the same amount of damage, making it tough to tell if this is a genuine concern. 

It all comes down to individual skiers and snowboarders having the ability to damage the piste if riding recklessly. 

Why Do Skiers Not Like Snowboarders?

swedish skier
Photo by Kai Hendry licensed under CC BY 2.0

One of the biggest reasons for the divide between skiers and snowboarders is simply the age of snowboarding. Skiing has been around for a lot longer and, for many, has a special place in their hearts. 

Snowboarding is typically seen as a young person’s sport, causing skiing purists to look down on them. This is particularly true at the more sophisticated resorts. 

As with all human pursuits, there is a tribalist element to it, with the participants in either discipline taking on the group identity as either a ‘skier’ or a ‘snowboarder.’ Thankfully for most people, this remains on the level of a friendly jibing back and forth. A minority of people take a more antagonistic approach.

Thankfully, this divide seems to be getting smaller as time progresses, but it is certainly still there in some areas that tend to be more elitist.  Another factor is that the two sports are different, and this causes a lack of understanding and empathy toward one another. 

Do Skiing & Snowboarding Affect the Snow Condition Differently? Is this true or just a myth?

There certainly is some truth to this. The argument is that snowboarders ride on a greater surface area, causing more damage. On the other hand, skiers only apply pressure to one ski at a time and leave less of a mark on the piste. 

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That being said, it’s not as clear-cut as some people would like to think. Some great snowboarders glide across the slopes like feathers, while some skiers leave thick tracks with every carve.

Realistically, both parties can be at fault when not riding considerately. This means skiers and snowboarders should keep themselves accountable and ensure they’re riding properly and not unnecessarily damaging the piste. 

At the end of the day,  we all share the slopes (apart from at three resorts).

Why Aren’t There Any Snowboarding Only Resorts?

snowboarding in park

In short, there would most likely be some serious outrage involved. Skiing is much older than snowboarding, “so it deserves respect as snowboarding owes a lot to it!” one could argue.

On the other hand, ski resorts are businesses. It doesn’t make much sense to ban more than half of your potential clientele. (Many more people ski than snowboard across the U.S and the world.)

It’s actually quite likely that one day there won’t even be ski-only resorts around. After all, there are only three ski-only resorts left in the world. 

Are Snowboarders More Dangerous For Skiers Than Other Skiers?

This can be quite subjective. A bad skier and a bad snowboarder are both equally dangerous to others on the slopes. The same can be said for reckless skiers and snowboarders.

Skier and Snowboarder
Photo by Ruth Hartnup Professional Photographer licensed under CC BY 2.0

There is an argument that a competent snowboarder offers no real extra risk to others than a competent skier does. The biggest difference is that snowboarders have a slight blind spot to consider, but with some practice, this isn’t a real issue for most snowboarders. 

On the other hand, many believe it takes longer to get a good amount of control on a snowboard which can lead to snowboarders causing crashes.  

In Summary

As snowboarding has become more and more popular since its birth in 1965, most ski resorts have come to accept and welcome riders. There are still three resorts in America withstanding this change, though. 

Alta, Deer Valley, and Mad River Glen are the last ski-only resorts out there. These resorts share the belief that skiing purists deserve to experience the slopes free from the rowdy snowboarding crowds. 

While these beliefs certainly seem outdated, snowboarders can simply rejoice that there are still countless excellent options out there to choose from.

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