Family sues Skico over deposit for wedding nixed due to Covid restrictions

Aspen Skiing Co. faces civil allegations over its alleged refusal to refund a near $60,000 down payment to a family that booked and cancelled a wedding event at the Little Nell because of pandemic restrictions.

Claims against Skico in a lawsuit filed in Pitkin County District Court by Iowa resident Cynthia Baxter and her daughter, Kayla Baxter of Syracuse, New York, include breach of contract and unjust enrichment. Other claims relate to civil fraud, not acting in good faith and negligent misrepresentation.

Skico declined to comment, citing company policy to not publicly talk about active litigation. The company also has not formally responded to the suit.

Kayla Baxter originally was scheduled to walk down the aisle as a bride on June 3 of this year at The Little Nell, which the family booked for the wedding ceremony, reception as well as food and service, the suit said.

The family locked in the date by putting down half of Skico’s estimated cost of $116,515 in September 2021 but changed their minds after Skico and Pitkin County announced updated restrictions related to the pandemic.

That October, Skico said it would require guests 12 and older to show a proof of vaccination to enter certain Skico-owned properties. The rule applied to guests checking into The Little Nell and also to the hotel’s sit-down table service locations but not all on-mountain restaurants. Proof of vaccination was also required upon entry to contained venues for large-scale events on Skico property.

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

“Some guests, including the groom’s family, are and were opposed to being vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus,” the suit said. “(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.”

On Dec. 13, the family canceled the June wedding, with the understanding Skico would apply the deposit to a later, rebooked wedding date, the suit said. The family also understood there were no deadlines to book the event.

Yet, Skico tried to change the contract’s terms by setting a June 2023 deadline in order for the deposit to apply to a future wedding date, the suit said. The family rejected the proposal. The family also rejected Skico’s proposed contract addendum to add $10,000 to the food and beverage service, increase the site fee by $7,000 and raise the service fee from 22% to 25%, the suit said.

Ultimately, the family and Skico agreed in May to a rebooked wedding date of Aug. 11, 2023. But, after learning Skico would not apply the previous deposit toward the newly-required deposit amount of $64,213 for the August wedding, the family walked away. Follow-up communications between the Baxters and Skico didn’t work out, the suit said.

“As of the filing of this complaint, (Skico) has refused to refund the deposit,” the suit said.

The complaint was filed Sept. 12.

The family could not be reached for comment. Daniel Evans, a partner with the Denver firm that filed the suit, made the following statement: “After announcing it cashed the Baxters’ $58,257 deposit, which violated the contract, Skico would not honor the August 2023 rescheduled wedding date without a new deposit of $64,213.  The Baxters’ efforts to resolve the dispute before filing suit were met with Skico’s threat to charge an additional 25% on top of the deposit they illegally took.”

While the pandemic took hold in March 2020, the suit said “the contract did not state 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 face masks in order to participate and attend the wedding and related activities.”

Meanwhile, the wedding appears to be off in Aspen. But, the couple is scheduled to exchange their vows and celebrate with family and friends in September 2023 in Nantucket, Massachusetts.