Ex-employee responds to allegations

Company wants to halt man's unauthorized lessons at ski area

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— Lawyers representing a former Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. employee filed their response Wednesday to a lawsuit alleging that the man has been teaching ski lessons illegally since he was fired in 2001.

According to court documents filed by Ski Corp. in February, the resort is suing Kenneth Porteous for "providing ski/snowboard lessons, instruction, training, and/or related services for compensation" at Steamboat Ski Area.

On Wednesday, Ralph Cantafio, Porteous' attorney, filed a response to the lawsuit disputing its claims.

In the response, Porteous denies some of the allegations made in the lawsuit and "invokes his privilege against self-incrimination as set forth in the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution" as it relates to other allegations.

The response also lists affirmative defenses --ossible defenses Porteous might pursue if the case goes to trial.

Cantafio said Ski Corp. couldn't expect to get more money from Porteous than the company would pay in legal and court fees.

"This isn't a case about proving and recovering damages, this is a message litigation. They'll spend more on legal fees than Kenny Porteous is worth," Cantafio said.

The bigger issue, Cantafio said, is Ski Corp.'s role in the community and how the corporation treats its current and ex-employees.

"We live in a society where we constantly get feedback from locals who are disenchanted with Ski Corp., from people who feel like they are pawns. It makes us wonder if Ski Corp. understands its relationship with the local community," he said.

"It's a very scary prospect for the local community to be thought of as disposable and entities to be disregarded. The reality of this case is that it is greater than (Porteous) and his family," he said.

Porteous worked as a ski and snowboard instructor for Ski Corp. from 1994 to 2001. Ski Corp. officials allege that Porteous has provided lessons within the ski area's boundaries since he was fired.

Ski Corp. President Chris Diamond said in February that unauthorized lessons rob the ski area and its employees of revenue. Ski Corp. is asking the court to prohibit Porteous from continuing to provide lessons, to provide compensation and damages and to reimburse Ski Corp. for court costs and attorney fees.

Cantafio thinks Ski Corp. is trying to make a point by suing Porteous, which could become even more muddled if the U.S. Forest Service chooses to file criminal charges against Porteous based on allegations he was teaching ski lessons without a permit on federal land in the Buffalo Pass area.

"The federal government has unlimited resources to investigate what it wants. Kenny is a local guy with a wife, four kids and two jobs. He does not have the financial resources the government or Ski Corp. does. Kenny is just terrified," Cantafio said.

Cantafio said he does not know whether the U.S. Forest Service will pursue criminal charges.

Attorney Gary Engle, who is representing Ski Corp., did not return calls seeking comment Thursday.

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