Ski Corp. sues ex-employee

Man says allegations that he gave illegal lessons are untrue

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— The Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. is suing a former employee who officials think has been teaching ski lessons illegally since he was fired from Ski Corp. in 2001.

According to court documents, Ski Corp. is suing Kenneth Porteous based on allegations he engaged in "providing ski and/ or snowboard lessons, instruction, training, and/or related services for compensation" at Steamboat Ski Area during the years after his termination.

Porteous said he received notice of the lawsuit late Monday night. Porteous said the allegations are false.

"It's so not true," Porteous said. "I'm just sitting here in tears over this. What a shame."

Ski Corp. President Chris Diamond said Tuesday that he could not comment about the specifics of the case. He said Ski Corp. is pursuing the case now because of new evidence that Porteous has been giving lessons.

"We've been working on this for a while. I think we've been waiting long enough to get to more forward," he said.

Porteous said that he was skiing with friends this weekend in the vicinity of Buff Pass when the group was contacted by U.S. Forest Service officials. Porteous said the Forest Service officials separated the group and asked his friends how much they had paid to ski with him. "They laughed," Porteous said.

Porteous said the Forest Service allowed the men to continue skiing. He said he was not cited and that none of his gear was confiscated.

U.S. Forest Service Public Affairs Director Kim Vogel said law enforcement officials with the Forest Service are investigating the case.

A copy of the lawsuit alleges people have observed Porteous conducting lessons within Ski Corp. boundaries. Porteous does not have a permit to conduct lessons, Diamond said.

During his employment with Ski Corp. from 1994 to 2001, Porteous worked as a ski and snowboard instructor, the lawsuit alleges. Porteous verified his Ski Corp. employment.

Diamond said unauthorized ski or snowboard lessons rob the company and other employees of revenues because such lessons otherwise would have been taught by Ski Corp. employees. "We believe there is an amount of money that would have gone to our company and our employees that didn't," Diamond said.

In the lawsuit, Ski Corp. is asking the court to prohibit Porteous from continuing his lessons; for compensation and damages sustained by the lessons; and for Ski Corp. reimbursement of court costs and attorney's fees.

Court documents indicate officials with Ski Corp. previously confronted Porteous and that he "failed and refused to cease providing ski and/or snowboard lessons."

Porteous, who said he is a self-employed sheep shearer and window cleaner, said Ski Corp. is mistaken. He said he frequently skis and snowboards on the mountain with friends and his children but that he does not charge for lessons.

"I do have friends who come up and ride with me, but it is in no way shape or form about being paid," he said.

Diamond said any criminal charges would be up to the Forest Service.

Diamond said that because the U.S. Forest Service grants Ski Corp. a permit to use the Routt National Forest for its resort, the resort pays a certain percentage of its sales to the Forest Service, which does not happen if nonemployees conduct business on the land without permits.

-- To reach Alexis DeLaCruz, call 871-4234 or e-mail adelacruz@steamboatpilot.com

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