Winter is here (with a vengeance in many places) so it’s time to hit the slopes, right? Well that depends. If you happen to be a disabled skier and you want to ski at Big Mountain Resort in Whitefish, Montana, it depends on the day of the week. Although it’s hard to believe in this day and age of civil rights enlightenment, Big Mountain Resort essentially bans disabled skiers from the slopes on Sundays.
Well according to a contract between Winter Sports Inc. (the management company of Big Mountain Resort) and DREAM Adaptive Recreation (DREAM), this action was necessary “so as to create a minimum interference with regular recreational skiers.”
How did this all come about?
Undoubtedly it’s a tangled web, with locally politics (and real estate development issues) playing heavily into the mix, however there are a few basic (somewhat uncontested) facts about this case.
DREAM is a local non-profit organization that provides ski instruction to disabled skiers. Because of local support, a good volunteer base and in-kind donations, they are able to provide their services free of charge. But of course they need a place to do this. Enter Big Mountain Resort (and their management company Winter Sports Inc.). Winter Sports Inc. entered into a contract with DREAM that allowed DREAM to provide instruction to disabled skiers on the slopes at Big Mountain Resort. In theory it was a win-win situation for both sides.
That is until you read the *whole* contract.
According to a former DREAM Board Member, because of contract provisions the only way a disabled skier can buy a lift ticket at Big Mountain Resort is through DREAM. In other words a disabled skier cannot walk up to same kiosk that able-bodied skiers use and just purchase a lift ticket. They have to go through DREAM, and since DREAM does not operate on Sundays, disabled skiers cannot ski on that day.
If your wondering if this is a civil rights violation, yes, it is. Rest assured a dedicated group of local skiers is currently pursuing this issue in court. After all disabled skiers should have the same freedom as able bodied skiers. They should not be denied access simply because of their disability. Able-bodied skiers can just walk up and ski anytime, with no restrictions. Disabled skiers should be afford that same basic right.
Stay tuned for updates in this ongoing saga.