Ski suit may go to high court

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American Skiing Co. this week took the first step toward bringing its appeal of the Triple Peaks lawsuit before the Colorado Supreme Court.

Earlier this month, ASC lost in its effort to have the Colorado Court of Appeals reconsider a ruling against the Steamboat Ski Area's parent company. The court upheld a January decision by a three-judge appellate panel, which could send the case back to Routt County and the 14th Judicial District. ASC intends to petition the state Supreme Court to hear the case.

The lawsuit centers on ASC's April 2002 decision to back out of selling the Steamboat Ski Area to Triple Peaks LLC for $91.4 million. Triple Peaks comprised a group of investors led by Tim and Diane Mueller of Chester, Vt. The Muellers closed earlier this year on the purchase of the Mount Crested Butte ski area.

ASC attorney Mary Wells said Wednesday she filed a petition with the appeals court earlier this month concerning the Jan. 21 ruling that reversed a Dec. 30, 2002, ruling in favor of ASC. In December 2002, District Court Judge Richard Doucette dismissed the original lawsuit filed by Triple Peaks seeking to have the court enforce the sale of the ski area.

The January ruling by the appellate panel made no attempt to decide the merits of the original case but determined that Doucette was wrong to dismiss the lawsuit and ultimately could send the matter back to the 14th Judicial District. However, ASC first intends to petition the Supreme Court.

"We now have 30 days to file a writ of certiorari with the Supreme Court," Wells said. Once that is accomplished, the court will take a significant amount of time before deciding whether it wants to take up the matter, she said.

When ASC abandoned the sale of the Steamboat Ski Area, it did so because it had chosen instead to sell Heavenly Resort in California to Vail Resorts. Its goal was to raise cash to retire a portion of its outstanding debt.

ASC contends the terms of the sale contract to Triple Peaks allowed it to back out by paying $500,000 in liquidated damages.

Triple Peaks attorney Joel Glover counters that the language in the contract makes it clear that only Triple Peaks had the right to terminate the contract. Tim Mueller said in January that acquiring the Steamboat Ski Area was an option as a result of the lawsuit but acknowledged it may not come about.

After the appeals court's January ruling, ASC officials affirmed their continued belief that their position is correct and stated they have no intention of selling the Steamboat Ski Area.

Wells said Wednesday that in the course of hearing ASC's request for reconsideration, the appeals court amended its previous opinion by broadening the scope of what issues should be taken into account in the event that the suit makes it way back to the 14th Judicial District for trial.

And though ASC lost in its effort to have the appellate panel's decision reconsidered, Wells said she succeeded in persuading the appeals court that in a new proceeding, the District Court should consider whether "Triple Peaks remains ready, willing and able" to close on the purchase of the Steamboat Ski Area. Second, Wells said, the District Court will be instructed to consider whether "specific performance" of the sale contract remains an appropriate remedy for the plaintiffs. Finally, she said, the appeals court asked the District Court to consider what damages, if any, are appropriate.

-- To reach Tom Ross call 871-4205

or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com

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