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Aspen Skiing Co. v. Aspen Highlands Skiing Corp.

Supreme Court of the United States

March 27, 1985, Argued ; June 19, 1985, Decided

No. 84-510


 [*587]   [***471]   [**2849]  JUSTICE STEVENS delivered the opinion of the Court.

 In a private treble-damages action, the jury found that petitioner Aspen Skiing Company (Ski Co.) had monopolized the market for  [****6]  downhill skiing services in Aspen, Colorado. The question presented is whether that finding is erroneous as a matter of law because it rests on an assumption that a firm with monopoly power has a duty to cooperate with its smaller rivals in a marketing arrangement in order to avoid violating § 2 of the Sherman Act. 2

 [**2850]  Aspen is a destination ski resort with a reputation for "super powder," "a wide range of runs," and an "active night life," including "some of the best restaurants in North America." Tr. 765-767. Between 1945 and 1960, private investors independently developed three major facilities for downhill skiing: Aspen Mountain (Ajax), 3 Aspen Highlands  [*588]  (Highlands), 4 [****8]  and [****7]  Buttermilk. 5 A  [***472]  fourth mountain, Snowmass, 6 opened in 1967.

The development [****9]  of any major additional facilities is hindered by practical considerations and regulatory obstacles. 7 The identification of appropriate topographical conditions for a new site and substantial financing are both essential. Most of the terrain in the vicinity of Aspen that is suitable for downhill skiing cannot be used for that purpose without the approval of the United States Forest Service. That approval is contingent, in part, on environmental concerns. Moreover, the county government must also approve the  [*589]  project, and in recent years it has followed a policy of limiting growth.

Between 1958 and 1964, three independent companies operated Ajax, Highlands, and Buttermilk. In the early years, each company offered its own day or half-day tickets for use of its mountain. Id., at 152. In 1962, however, the three competitors also introduced an interchangeable ticket. 8 Id., at 1634. The 6-day, all-Aspen ticket provided convenience to [****10]  the vast majority of skiers who visited the resort for weekly periods, but preferred to remain flexible about what mountain they might ski each day during the visit. App. 92. It also emphasized the unusual variety in ski mountains available in Aspen.

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472 U.S. 585 *; 105 S. Ct. 2847 **; 86 L. Ed. 2d 467 ***; 1985 U.S. LEXIS 115 ****; 53 U.S.L.W. 4818; 1985-2 Trade Cas. (CCH) P66,653



Disposition:  738 F.2d 1509, affirmed.


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Antitrust & Trade Law, Sherman Act, General Overview, Regulated Practices, Market Definition, Relevant Market, Monopolies & Monopolization, Attempts to Monopolize, Regulated Industries, Communications, Sherman Act, Scope