The reasoning behind the ban at Mad River Glen is easier to understand than the reasons Alta and Deer Valley continue to prohibit 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 the resort claims snowboarders could not exit from without causing problems for the chair (until being replaced by a new single chair in 2007, the chair was originally running unchanged since the 1940's). At one time, snowboarders were allowed 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.
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 in Boulder, Colo., it found that the number of snowboarders older than 35 rose 51 percent to nearly 1.1 million, up from 724,000 in 1997. 1
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."2
In much the same way that the Deep South was the last refuge for the ugly racism that once pervaded much of the U.S., these 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!