RUTLAND, Vt. (AP) – A federal judge says a group of skiers can sue the Killington resort as a class over a plan to eliminate what they felt were lifetime ski passes at the end of the upcoming season.

On Tuesday U.S. District Court Judge William Sessions certified a lawsuit by the pass holders as a class action.

The lawsuit was filed last year by four pass holders after the ski resort’s new owners told them that what they considered lifetime passes would no longer be honored after the 2008-09 ski season.

In March, the four moved to certify the lawsuit as a class action on behalf of the 1,243 investor pass holders. The motion was opposed by the resort’s owners.

Sessions ruled that the “common issues (of the pass holders) favor treating the suit as a class action.”

In a separate ruling, Sessions ordered the resort’s owners to turn over to the plaintiffs the names of the investor pass holders and the company’s correspondence on the issue.

“We’re really looking forward to the defendants complying with the judge’s orders,” said Martin Post of Killington, one of the original plaintiffs. “Up until this point it’s been a bitter battle.”

The so-called “investor” passes were issued between 1958 and 1965 to people who invested in the ski area. But when Killington Pico Ski Resort Partners and SP Land Co. bought the resort last year they said they weren’t bound by that agreement. The passes had been honored by the resort’s previous owners.

The new owners canceled the investor passes saying the company that issued them ceased to exist after the purchase.

Killington attorney Karen McAndrew declined comment, saying she had not had a chance to review the decision and had not conferred with her client.

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