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Skiers take some final laps during night skiing Saturday, March 14, 2020, at Steamboat Resort in Steamboat Springs. The resort's parent company Alterra Mountain Co. announced just hours earlier that they would close for a week starting March 15. The announcement came about 30 minutes after Vail Resorts announced they would also be closing its ski areas. (Matt Stensland, Special to The Colorado Sun)

This story first appeared in The Outsider, the premium outdoor newsletter by Jason Blevins.

In it, he covers the industry from the inside out, plus the fun side of being outdoors in our beautiful state.

Alterra Mountain Co. has reached a $17.5 million settlement with skiers who bought the resort operator’s Ikon Pass and sued when the company closed its resorts in March 2020 at the start of the global pandemic. 

A statement from Alterra Mountain Co. said the company made “the difficult decision” in March 2020 to shut down resort operations — which include Winter Park and Steamboat ski areas in Colorado — in conjunction with local, state and federal authorities. 

“Although we fully stand by the decision to pause operations in the face of unprecedented and unknown health and safety risks, we wanted to move beyond March 2020 and have agreed to a settlement resolution for our valued pass holders who were impacted,” reads the statement from the resort operator, which directs impacted skiers to the website for more information.

Vail Resorts in April 2020 announced it would offer pass holders 20% to 80% of what they spent on the 2019-20 Epic Pass, depending on how many days the pass was used. That offer was a credit for the 2020-21 season pass. The company spent $106 million issuing credits to pass holders for the following season. 

A consortium of Epic Pass skiers sued Vail Resorts in 2020 arguing they were due cash refunds and that the company had broken the pass-purchase contract by ending the season early. 

U.S. District Court Judge R. Brooke Jackson dismissed the class-action lawsuit in October 2021, ruling “Vail did not close its resorts prematurely, it closed when skiing was no longer safe.”

“Nor did Vail fail to compensate plaintiffs, it issued satisfactory credits,” reads Jackson’s ruling. 

The Epic Pass skiers challenged Jackson’s ruling in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit in November 2022 and a ruling in that appeal is pending. 

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The class action against Alterra involved 12 lawsuits that consolidated into one, with skiers claiming they were due refunds for the shortened season. 

Those 12 skiers hired a law firm on contingency — meaning the firm would only make money if they won or settled the complaint — and that law firm hired snow experts and an economist to calculate the damages of the shortened season. After mediation, the skiers and Alterra proposed a settlement in 2022 and a federal judge approved the deal in September of that year. 

That settlement provided credits for purchasing the 2023-24 Ikon Pass, ranging from $150 for skiers who only used their pass one day in the 2019-20 season down to $10 in credit for skiers who used their passes seven or more days. The value of the credits was about $17.5 million.

Last month, Alterra and the skiers finalized the settlement and U.S. District Court Judge Raymond Moore approved a motion awarding the skiers’ law firm, Dovel & Luner, $2.9 million in attorney’s fees and costs. 

“Please include our firm name, Dovel & Luner, in any articles,” reads a news release from the firm announcing the settlement. 

The Colorado Sun — Email: Twitter: @jasonblevins