A snowboarder makes turns in January 2019 at Heavenly Mountain Resort on Lake Tahoe's South Shore. Heavenly is one of three Vail Resorts-owned ski areas in the greater Reno-Tahoe region.
A class-action lawsuit was filed against Vail Resorts on April 10 claiming false advertising, fraud and negligent misrepresentation, among other counts, due to lost mountain resort access without pass refunds.
On April 14, a similar lawsuit was filed against Alterra Mountain Co., citing that by retaining revenue generated from Ikon Pass sales, the company holds tens of millions in unjust profits as the ski areas and resorts were closed prematurely.
The plaintiff in the suit against Vail Resorts is Brian Hunt, a Tahoe Local passholder for the 2019-20 season. The lawsuit says Hunt was promised mountain access from October 2019 to June 2020 as long as snow continued to be on the mountain.
Vail Resorts made the decision March 17 to close all North American resorts — including Northstar, Heavenly and Kirkwood in the Sierra Nevada — for the remainder of the season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the lawsuit reports that Hunt has not been refunded any part of his pass fee for lost access to Vail Resorts mountains.
The lawsuit claims Hunt would “not have paid for the annual pass, or would not have paid for it on the same terms, had he known that he would not have access to any … resorts.”
According to the lawsuit, the class action is on behalf of all Epic Pass holders for the 2019-20 season as well as those with unused days on the Epic Day Pass.
There is also a subclass Hunt wishes to represent that consists of those who purchased these passes specifically in California as some claims reference California law. In addition to certifying the class, Hunt seeks compensatory and punitive damages to be determined by the court or jury, among other judgements.
Following the closure, Vail Resorts Chief Marketing Officer Kirsten Lynch sent an email to passholders March 25 that read: “We intend to reach back out to you with more information by the end of April.”
On Tuesday, April 21, Breckenridge Ski Resort spokeswoman Sara Lococo reported that the company is working on a “comprehensive approach” for passholders.
The plaintiff in the lawsuit against Alterra — which owns 15 ski resorts across America, including Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows in the Sierra — is Robert Stephen Kramer, who is also a California resident but does not list a California subclass.
The proposed class is listed simply as Ikon Pass and Ikon Base purchasers, both of which are season passes. The suit alleges that Ikon passholders did not receive the benefits that they paid for when the resorts closed in mid-March. The lawsuit gave the example of Colorado’s Winter Park Resort, which the suit says is typically open into late April or May.
Jonas Jacobson, an attorney at Dovel & Luner, the law firm that filed the case against Alterra, said that while Colorado resorts were closed following an executive order from the governor, the resorts are still obligated to refund passholders.
Alterra has doubled the renewal discount for the purchase of 2020-21 passes and has added “Adventure Assurance” for 2020-21 passholders to defer next season’s pass to the 2021-22 season for any reason, but has not made deferment or refund options available to 2019-20 season passholders.
Jacobson said the next step in the legal process will be to ask the court to certify the class so the lawsuit can proceed as a class action. He said this could take months or up to a year.
Taylor Sienkiewicz is a reporter with the Summit Daily News in Frisco, Colo. This story originally published April 21.