October 4, 1997 in Nation/World

Mount Spokane Operator To Settle Suit $1.375 Million Agreement Clears Way For Resort To Open Under New Management

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Waiting to buy a season pass to Mt. Spokane Ski Area?

You’ll have the chance next week.

The only remaining obstacle to the ski area’s winter season melted away when two groups arguing over the right to run the mountain reached an agreement.

Mount Spokane 2000, the nonprofit group that will run the mountain for the next 20 years, will pay Mt. Spokane Skiing Corp. $1.375 million for the mountain assets.

When that payment is made, Mt. Spokane Skiing Corp.’s lawsuit contesting the new operator’s right to take over will be dropped.

“By Tuesday night, we should have the concession and we’re real excited about it,” said Ted Stiles, a member of Mount Spokane 2000.

Once payment is made and the lawsuit dropped, Mount Spokane 2000 will begin hiring staff to clear brush and clean the mountain lodge and prepare for snow. The group has already hired a general manager, who is operating out of a condominium near the ski area until until he can move into the mountain offices.

It’s the final chapter in a legal battle that began last year when the state, which owns the land, transferred ski hill operations from Mt. Spokane Skiing Corp., owned by Gregg Sowder and his family, to Mount Spokane 2000, comprised of business people and civic leaders unhappy with how the mountain was run.

Mt. Spokane Skiing Corp. responded by filing a lawsuit against the state of Washington and Mount Spokane 2000, contesting the concession award.

That lawsuit will be dropped when Mt. Spokane Skiing Corp. is paid for the mountain’s assets.

“They’re required to dismiss the lawsuit when we pay them,” said Duane Swinton, attorney for Mount Spokane 2000.

A Sept. 23 letter sent by Mt. Spokane Skiing Corp. to the state parks commission confirms that the lawsuit will be dropped.

” … MSSC agreed to drop all pending litigation and to accept this award,” reads the letter sent to the commission by Douglas A. Sowder, vice president of Mt. Spokane Skiing Corp.

“Subsequently,” the letter continues, “we have removed all corporate business records and personal items not included in the arbitrators’ award from the premises.

“All of our employees have been let go and we are now simply awaiting payment for our possessory interest.”

The bank loan Mount Spokane 2000 is arranging to pay off the Mt. Spokane Skiing Corp. should be finalized by Tuesday, Stiles said.

“We just placed an order for a couple of state-of-the-art pieces of snow-grooming equipment,” Stiles said.

Season passes will go on sale Thursday, according to mountain management.

There will be no major changes in ticket prices, Stiles said. Last year, an adult pass cost $200 and a junior pass sold for $70.

Mount Spokane 2000 has hired a general manager to run the mountain. Kirk Duncan, 47, has years of experience as a ski resort consultant and has worked with such areas as Bogus Basin, Schweitzer Mountain Resort and 49 Degrees North.

Though three assistant managers have been hired, Duncan said the other hiring won’t begin until the concession officially changes hands.

The mountain’s focus this year will be improved grooming, better lighting for night skiing, and, most important, changing skiers’ opinions about Mount Spokane. Many skiers were angry that the ski hill closed early last year despite record snowfall.

“The concept of guest is very important,” Duncan said. “We don’t have customers, we have guests. We want to treat people like we’d treat them in our living room. There is an attitude of, ‘Hey, welcome to our home.”’

, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story:

THROUGH THE YEARS

A look at significant dates in the history of the Mt. Spokane Ski Resort:

March 1995 - Mount Spokane 2000 submits a proposal to the state parks commission suggesting that a nonprofit corporation be formed to run the Mt. Spokane Ski area.

February 1996 - Mt. Spokane Skiing Corp. sues Washington State and Mount Spokane 2000 over the tentative plan to transfer mountain operations to Mount Spokane 2000.

July 1996 - Washington state awards the concession to run Mount Spokane to Mount Spokane 2000.

August 1997 - An arbitration panel decides Mount Spokane 2000 must pay Mt. Spokane Skiing Corp. $1.375 million for the mountain’s assets.

September 1997 - Mt. Spokane Skiing Corp. agrees to drop lawsuit upon receipt of payment for mountain assets.

This sidebar appeared with the story: THROUGH THE YEARS A look at significant dates in the history of the Mt. Spokane Ski Resort: March 1995 - Mount Spokane 2000 submits a proposal to the state parks commission suggesting that a nonprofit corporation be formed to run the Mt. Spokane Ski area. February 1996 - Mt. Spokane Skiing Corp. sues Washington State and Mount Spokane 2000 over the tentative plan to transfer mountain operations to Mount Spokane 2000. July 1996 - Washington state awards the concession to run Mount Spokane to Mount Spokane 2000. August 1997 - An arbitration panel decides Mount Spokane 2000 must pay Mt. Spokane Skiing Corp. $1.375 million for the mountain’s assets. September 1997 - Mt. Spokane Skiing Corp. agrees to drop lawsuit upon receipt of payment for mountain assets.


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