Skico, Pfeifers feuding over Buttermilk rent
One of Aspen’s skiing family dynasties is locked in a court battle with the Aspen Skiing Co. over accusations that the Skico has been cheating on its rent for land at the base of Buttermilk Mountain.
A Skico official, however, said this week that the company believes it has fulfilled all the obligations of its lease with the family and is asking a judge to decide who is correct.
The Friedl Pfeifer Restated Trust rents approximately 100 acres of land at the base of Buttermilk to the Skico, under provisions of a series of agreements dating back to 1963. The trust was set up by the family of the late, legendary skier and instructor.
In return, the Skico pays the family roughly $100,000 per year in lease payments, determined as a percentage of the Skico’s annual income from the sale of lift tickets and other sources. The company also provides seven free ski passes to family members, according to court papers filed by the company this week.
According to Skico attorney Dave Bellack, the Pfeifers conducted a two-year audit of the Skico’s methods for determining how much rent is owed, starting in 1998. This year, Bellack said, the family sent the company a “notice of default” and demanded repayment of more than $250,000 that the family believes it is owed.
Bellack said part of the money the trust is demanding is a percentage of the income from snowboarding lessons. He said skiing lessons are specifically exempted from the rental calculations, but snowboarding was not an issue the last time the lease agreement was amended in the late 1970s.
In addition, according to court documents, the family has interpreted the agreement with the Skico to mean there should be 14 ski passes handed out each year, not seven.
As part of the family trust’s reasoning, court papers claim the Skico gave away a total of 23,000 free lift tickets or passes during the 1997 and 1998 ski seasons, which the trust alleged is in violation of the lease agreements.
The lease agreement, according to papers filed by the trust’s attorney, specifically prohibits the Skico from issuing “blanket … free … privileges … to securities holders or other large groups.”
Bellack said part of the family’s objection has to do with the Skico giving free ski passes to its employees.
The family also claims the Skico has improperly expanded the Pfeifer home that is located along Tiehack Road on the lease lands and is using it as a private residence in violation of the lease agreement.
Bellack said the Skico had exchanged letters and other documents with the family trust to try to resolve the conflicting interpretations of the lease agreement, but that the negotiations had broken down.
“We thought we were in compliance with every aspect of the lease,” Bellack said.
In filing a motion for “declaratory judgment,” Bellack said, the Skico is asking Ninth Judicial District Court Judge Thomas Ossola to decide whose interpretation is the correct one.
Bellack said the Skico has until Oct. 4 to “cure” the default on the lease by cutting a check to the family trust, and that an extension to that deadline may be requested.
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