Krabloonik ownership digs in their heels, plan to stay open amid dispute

Kristen Mohammadi and Audrey Ryan
Krabloonik as seen on Aug. 23, in Snowmass Village.
File photo

The ownership of Krabloonik Dog Sledding said the business will keep operating despite eviction efforts by the town of Snowmass Village.

The town is the landlord for the Krabloonik property, which is located at 4250 Divide Road and near the Campground area of Snowmass ski area. In the first week of October, the town notified Krabloonik it had to vacate the premises by Nov. 1 for allegedly violating terms of the lease agreement that concern treatment of the facility’s sled dogs.

Dan Phillips, who co-owns Krabloonik with his wife, said the business is within its rights to stay open.

“The town has no legal cause to put us in default,” said Phillips in an email to The Aspen Times. “Our dogs are happy and healthy and love their jobs. They are so excited to start seeing guests and doing what they love to do, which is run and play in the snow.”

The Phillips have owned Krabloonik since December 2014. After they acquired the facility, an outside best-practices review committee was created to draw up policies for Krabloonik — which had attracted scrutiny in previous years over its treatment of the huskies under then-owner Dan MacEachen, who has since deceased — to follow in order to stay in compliance with its lease. The lease expires Sept. 26, 2026.

In June, the committee gave the town an update report that said Krabloonik was not following the best practices detailed in the lease agreement. The Town Council agreed in September for the town attorney to put the Phillips on notice that they were in default of their lease and would have to leave the premises this month. Concerns included the dogs’ leash time and a lack of keeping records on the dogs.

That notice was sent Oct. 6, prompting an Oct. 24 reply from Krabloonik attorney John Mallonee to the town. The letter, which is public record, said the town should withdraw the final notice of default because it “violated the lease by usurping control of the Best Practices Review Committee to the exclusion of Krabloonik.”

Within the letter is a timeline that recounts the communication between the town and Krabloonik. The timeline shows that after the Oct. 6 notice of default was sent, Krabloonik sent information about the electronic record system that was implemented to Town Council, who then declined the request for a meeting to go over the record system.

The letter also states there is a lack of objective criteria for default, therefore court proceedings will likely end in favor of Krabloonik.

The Town Council met in an executive session on Nov. 7 to discuss Krabloonik’s lease terms. Town Manager Clint Kinney said the next steps involve a lot of back and forth correspondence and potential legal process.

Krabloonik has been a Snowmass Village staple since 1976, while its treatment of dogs has been questioned and criticized for the last 20 years and also at the center of state investigations and complaints.

Dog sledding has been around for centuries. The American Kennel Club estimates that sled dogs evolved in Mongolia between 30,000 and 35,000 years ago. Some researchers believe humans living in arctic areas may not have survived if not for sled dogs.

Alaskan huskies are known to love running and even depend on it for their well-being. With this, some argue dog-sledding is more ethical than owning a husky and living in a small city apartment. 

Therefore, the conversation surrounding dog sledding is very complicated. While Krabloonik is in a tumultuous state, Dan Phillips said, “There is always going to be a battle with animal-rights activists. They would rather see the dogs locked up in shelters or put down rather than working and doing what they love.

“Our hearts are combined with our dogs, our staff, and the community that supports us, and we will not give up on them,” he wrote.

For more information, read our previous coverage:

Krabloonik dog sled owners on thin ice with Snowmass Village