Ennis, MT Feb. 23, 2004 — Moonlight Basin Ski Resort, the first new destination ski resort to open in the United States in more than two decades, plans to vigorously fight a lawsuit filed by the owners of neighboring Big Sky Resort.
Michigan-based Boyne USA Corporation, which owns six ski areas in the US and Canada, filed suit against the locally-owned and operated Moonlight Basin resort on Wednesday.
"The allegations in the suit are groundless, said Lee Poole, one of two managing partners for Moonlight Basin. "We hope that Boyne USA will recognize the folly of this action and withdraw it. Failing that, we look forward to seeing them in court.
The complaint alleges that Moonlight's use of an avalanche control device jeopardizes its staff and guests. But Burt Mills, CEO and general manager of ski operations at Moonlight Basin, disputes the charge.
"In addition to having a snow safety team with more than 100 years of combined experience, we consulted with outside experts prior to installing the device, Mills said. "Our consultants include engineers and some of the most experienced avalanche control experts in the industry. There is simply no way that the device can impact Big Sky.
Mills noted that Moonlight Basin routinely notifies Big Sky staff when avalanche control work is underway, and also grants Big Sky staff use of Moonlight Basin terrain in order to conduct its own avalanche control work. Moonlight Basin also allows Big Sky skiers to cross its land in order to access a popular backcountry ski route.
The suit also alleges that Moonlight Basin staff members have trespassed on Big Sky land. "It's a curious charge, given that many of the alleged trespasses onto Big Sky terrain have been at Big Sky's request, Mills said. "We've helped Big Sky open and close their trails, and our patrol has helped theirs transport injured guests to their clinic. Our grooming staff groomed in areas where conditions could impact skier safety, which we stopped doing at Big Sky's request. As far as we're concerned, that's simply being a good neighbor.
Joe Vujovich of Moonlight said that he was both puzzled and disappointed by Boyne's action. "They're a multinational company with resorts all over the place, and we're a locally owned and operated outfit. We think the presence of Moonlight Basin makes the area more attractive to destination skiers, because the addition of Moonlight Basin to the existing ski infrastructure of Big Sky and Bridger Bowl helps the region achieve critical mass. We're a growing company with an exemplary environmental and customer service ethic, and why Boyne should consider that a threat is beyond us.