Park City Mountain Resort could be forced to cease operations following a Wednesday court ruling. Or Vail Resorts could be running the Utah resort. Or it could be somewhere in between. The future is that unclear.
A 3rd District judge ruled that Park City Mountain Resort’s owner missed a 2011 deadline to renew the lease for nearly 3,000 acres of terrain that PCMR operates on. This is the latest development in a heated dispute between PCMR and Talisker Land Holdings, owner of neighboring Canyons Resort and much of PCMR. Vail Resorts (VR) started running Canyons for Talisker last season.
The judge also ruled that PCMR’s owner, Powdr Corp., wasn’t denied the first right of refusal to run Canyons prior to Talisker reaching the deal with Vail Resorts. John Cumming, Powdr Corp. CEO, remains steadfast in his battle against Vail Resorts operating PCMR. “Even if Vail ultimately prevails in this litigation, it cannot possibly operate a resort on the leased property,” Cumming says in a statement. “They do not own the adjacent lands and facilities that are essential for ski operations to take place. And they are not for sale.”
Powdr, which vows to appeal the ruling and not go down without a fight, would still retain PCMR’s base area and a portion of the lower slopes—and it's unclear how the resort would operate without Cumming joining in. He previously said he would turn his base-area holdings into a Woodward training Center. Vail Resorts doesn't appear too concerned about that.
"Talisker looks forward to bringing in Vail Resorts as its new tenant and operator of the terrain,” a Talisker representative says in a statement. If the ruling is upheld, Vail Resorts has the opportunity to not only operate Canyons but also the vast majority of PCMR. That means Vail would operate two of Park City’s three ski resorts.
As of now, PCMR plans to operate this season as usual, though nothing is final in this fight. And the greater Park City area's foggy future very well could affect season-pass sales, among other ancillary operations as we head into next ski season. This is a new experience in recent Park City history, as the local resort community—PCMR, Canyons, and Deer Valley—takes pride in working together, at least as much as competitors can.
Some in the local ski community see Vail Resorts, and its epic reach with its iconic brands and progressive pass products, as a savior surely destined to increase business in this key ski hub. Others see VR as a corporate interloper, sacrificing community congeniality for higher returns. Either way, Vail Resorts, under CEO Rob Katz, has always wanted a footprint in Utah. With PCMR, VR might now have two.
Powdr operates nine resorts, including PCMR, Copper Mountain in Colorado, Killington in Vermont, and Mt. Bachelor in Oregon. Vail Resorts's current resort count is 10, including Canyons; Vail, Breckenridge, Keystone, and Beaver Creek in Colorado; and Heavenly and Northstar in Tahoe. But VR's resort scorecard might have just jumped to 11.