Skico: Couple who canceled Aspen wedding due to COVID restrictions not entitled to refund |

Skico: Couple who canceled Aspen wedding due to COVID restrictions not entitled to refund

A family’s decision to cancel a wedding event at The Little Nell because of COVID-19 restrictions did not entitle them to a deposit refund of nearly $60,000 for the ceremony and festivities, according to a recent pleading from Aspen Skiing Co. in Pitkin County District Court.

The filing by Skico — which owns the luxury resort hotel at the base of Aspen Mountain — also seeks to dismiss an Iowa family’s lawsuit that accused the company of wrongfully keeping their deposit for a wedding event scheduled June 3 that they cancelled late last year.

“Now, in an attempt to recoup their deposit — which (Skico) was contractually permitted to keep — Plaintiffs allege that they cancelled based on COVID-19 restrictions, which made the wedding ‘impossible,'” argued Denver lawyer Hannah E. Armentrout in Skico’s Nov. 18-dated written response to the lawsuit.

In September, Iowa resident Cynthia Baxter and her daughter, bride-to-be Kayla Baxter of Syracuse, New York, sued Skico in Pitkin County District Court for breach of contract and unjust enrichment. Other claims related to civil fraud, not acting in good faith, and negligent misrepresentation.

The lawsuit was filed one year after the Baxter family, in September 2021, deposited $58,257 to secure The Little Nell venue for the June wedding.

Pandemic restrictions, however, chilled their excitement.

In October 2021, Skico said it would require guests 12 and older to show a proof of vaccination to enter certain Skico-owned properties, which included guests of The Little Nell. Proof of vaccination was also required for entry to contained venues for large-scale events on Skico property.

And, in November 2021, the county, citing the surging delta variant, announced a a public-health order that face-coverings be worn inside public spaces and limiting indoor occupancy to 50% in public places. The order took effect in December. (Those orders no longer are in effect.)

The restrictions made the Baxters reconsider their decision, and, on Dec. 13, they canceled their plans for The Little Nell and sought a refund of their deposit, which represented half of Skico’s estimated cost of $116,515 for the wedding ceremony, reception, and food and beverage service.

“Although the parties entered the Contract after the COVID-19 epidemic began, the
Contract did not state that the events, which were the subject of the Contract and its participants
and guests, would be required to be vaccinated against the virus, or that they would have to wear
facemasks in order to participate and attend the wedding and related activities,” said the Baxters’ lawsuit.

The suit added: “Some guests, including the groom’s family, are and were opposed to being vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus. (Skico’s) policies and/or the Public Health Order would have made it illegal for these participants and guests to participate in the wedding ceremony, reception, and related activities as contemplated by the contract.”

Skico’s response countered that the restrictions — if the same ones had remained in place for the June event — would not have made the event “impossible” to hold, which would have triggered a full refund under the agreement.

“These restrictions did not make any party’s performance impossible or illegal; to the contrary, (Skico) could legally provide the wedding venue, and (the Baxters) could legally pay the contracted-for amount,” the response said. “(The Baxters) do not and cannot allege that the June 3, 2022, wedding date was unavailable to them.”

Skico would have refunded the deposit if the Baxters had scheduled the wedding event no later than June 2023, the reply said. The Baxters opted for a date in August 2023 but didn’t follow through because Skico would not refund the deposit.

Skico “had no contractual obligation to work with (the Baxters) to rebook the Event following their decision to cancel and had no obligation to refund or apply any portion of the Deposit to a new date,” the reply said.

As well, the Baxters faced a penalty fee of $87,386 for cancelling the June wedding, an amount representing 75% of the estimated cost, Skico’s reply said. That amount also exceeded their deposit. Parties that cancel an event at The Little Nell within 120 to 180 days of its scheduled date are charged a $75% of Skico’s anticipated revenue, Skico’s filing said.