That was an artificially low price at the time. The previous owner got popped for tax fraud and had to sell at a huge loss. Thankfully someone picked up the asset cheap enough and now has a model that seems to be working.
Owning a ski resort in not easy. One bad season is all it takes to thin the herd.
I think it was embezzlement, although usually embezzlement also leads to tax fraud, as people don't generally report the money they are stealing... :)
If my memory serves, I think the $18 tickets were during the days that Monarch was run by the church that the dude was embezzling from- they got the property as an asset arising out of the court mess.
$18 was low, but not THAT low- the largest resorts were in the $30 range at that time, and Summit resorts had a ton of discounts available that made it pretty easy to ski there for an adult ticket in the $25 range. $18 was certainly enough to keep the area operating, although it was dicey for a few years there.
I posted many other data points that indicate the $18 ticket was not really an outlier. Ticket prices stayed relatively stable, then in the pat 20 years, really started exploding. In Colorado, this is around the same time that the season pass wars exploded.