The pandemic cut ski season short in March of 2020. You were there—you remember. Parent company of the Ikon Pass, Alterra Mountain Company, shut down its mountains across the nation as state-mandated lockdowns became the new norm. Ikon Pass holders said they were owed a refund for not getting to ski the entire season. Alterra disagreed. So Ikon Pass holders sued Alterra for breach of contract. Thus came Goodrich et al. v. Alterra Mountain Company, an ongoing lawsuit brought by plaintiffs in Colorado, California, Illinois, Utah, and Wisconsin.
Judge Raymond P. Moore, of the District Court of Colorado, heard the case last month after Alterra filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. It wasn’t dismissed because Moore found that the case has merit, citing the terms of the Ikon Pass itself. He wrote in a June 25 order:
“Though Defendants [Alterra] argue otherwise, the Court finds that, read as a whole, the promise is for unlimited access…during the 2019/20 ski season. And, here, Plaintiffs plausibly alleged that Defendants closed the resort during the 2019/20 ski season—when the resorts’ ski conditions were such that skiing was feasible, e.g., spring skiing.”
Alterra hasn’t publicly commented yet on the ongoing litigation nor Moore’s recent ruling. According to the language in the terms and conditions of the Ikon Pass, the pass’s non-refundable clauses protect it from owing pass holders a refund. According to Ski Mag, Alterra has also claimed that it has never guaranteed pass holders a “complete ski season” and that skiers’ seasons were cut short due to the stay-at-home order and not the resort closures.
Vail Resorts is also going through similar litigation from its pass holders. They currently have a motion to dismiss that case as well, but it still hasn’t been ruled upon.
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Moore decided not to dismiss the lawsuit because it’s based on the fact that Alterra voluntarily closed its resorts, even though states were mandating them to. This means that Alterra should be held to its own terms set when skiers bought their Ikon Passes, which say that pass holders are not entitled to refunds when they can’t use their passes due to some fault of their own. This was before the pandemic—before Alterra updated the language on the Ikon Pass which now addresses pandemic-related hiccups.
“Defendants also rely on the ‘non-refundable’ language but the Court finds such language—at this juncture—does not support that Plaintiffs’ claim is implausible. Indeed, read as a whole, it supports Plaintiffs’ position that the ‘Cancellation Policy’ applies such that if they canceled or revoked the contract, they would not be entitled to a refund … Accordingly, the Court finds Plaintiffs’ breach of contract claim is also not subject to dismissal on this basis.”
Whether or not Alterra—and also Vail—owe pass holders refunds for the premature 2019-’20 season is still to be determined. Regardless of the verdict, the case will likely set a precedent in the ski industry. As of July 8, it remains unclear as to when the courts will continue the case of Goodrich et al. v. Alterra Mountain Company.