The two Colorado titans of the ski industry, Broomfield-based Vail Resorts and Alterra Mountain Company, based in Denver, are facing class-action lawsuits filed by disgruntled pass-holders seeking refunds because both companies shut down North American operations a month early due to the coronavirus.
One suit was filed on April 14 in U.S. District Court in Denver against Alterra and its subsidiary, Ikon Pass, by Robert Stephen Kramer, a resident of Villa Park, Calif.
“Despite not providing the promised skiing access, Defendants did not offer a refund (or even partial refund) on passes,” the Kramer lawsuit says. “Instead, Defendants kept all of skiers’ money. With hundreds of thousands of pass-holders, this amounts to tens of millions (or more) in unjust profits. Plaintiff brings this case on behalf of himself and the hundreds of thousands of skiers who purchased Ikon ski passes for the 2019-2020 ski season, but did not get the full benefits they paid for. Plaintiff seeks fair and reasonable compensation for Ikon pass-holders.”
Another suit was filed April 10 against Vail Resorts and its Epic Pass by Brian Hunt, a resident of San Ramon, Calif. That suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Northern California, says Vail Resorts “has made the unconscionable decision to retain its millions of customers pass-holder fees while closing 100% of its mountain resorts as the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, rages throughout the world and the United States economy has gone into a deep recession.”
Spokeswomen for both companies said they could not comment on pending litigation. Both companies have long-standing policies that their passes are “non-refundable.” Buyers are encouraged to opt for pass insurance through third parties at the time of purchase in case they are unable to use their passes.
The Kramer lawsuit seeks damages, arguing “it would be unjust for Defendants to retain all pass fees, when Defendants failed to provide resort access for a substantial portion of the ski season.” The Hunt suit asks for “compensatory and punitive damages” and “an order of restitution and all other forms of equitable monetary relief.”
While not commenting on litigation, Vail Resorts spokeswoman Johnna Muscente noted that purchases of Epic Passes received an email from chief marketing officer Kirsten Lynch on March 25, acknowledging their “frustrations” and adding that the company was “committed to identifying an approach that acknowledges this past season and retains your loyalty for the future.”
The Vail letter, which says nothing about refunds, promised more information by the end of April. Muscente said the company “remains on track” to do so.
“We have a wide-ranging portfolio of pass products,” Muscente said, “and want to ensure any action that we take considers them all.”
Alterra has not offered refunds, but it did double renewal discounts for next year’s passes as a result of the shortened season. It also extended the deadline for early renewals and extended the payment plan deadline for next year’s passes.
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