It’s more torturous than waiting for the first snow of the ski season.
A defining court ruling this week in the ongoing land-lease dispute between Park City Mountain Resort and Talisker Land Holdings has done nothing to relieve the anxiety in Utah’s premier ski town.
The ski season may be five months away, but if PCMR were not to open, it would be devastating for Park City businesses, residents and taxpayers.
“It’s crystal clear to everyone with a business. The longer this goes on without a resolution the uncertainty just gets worse and worse for the rest of us,” said City Councilwoman Liza Simpson, who also works at Dolly’s Bookstore.
The municipality calculated it would lose $4.1 million in taxes in the upcoming ski season if the resort were not to open, Simpson said. But that doesn’t take into consideration the impact on restaurants, lodges, ski shops and others, she noted.
“Part of what is feeding the uncertainty,” Simpson said, “is that the longer people are in a fight, the less willing they are to compromise.”
Third District Judge Ryan Harris ruled Thursday that PCMR failed to renew its lease in a timely fashion on 2,800 acres of ski terrain from Talisker, which has retained Vail Resorts Inc. to operate the nearby Canyons Resort. Vail has taken the lead in the legal dispute and has made no secret of its desire to operate PCMR, which is owned by Powdr Corp.
But Powdr Corp. owns the base facilities and the land under them, making operation of the resort impossible for Vail. John Cumming, CEO of Powdr Corp., has said he wants to continue to operate PCMR.
Ryan ordered the two sides into mediation and scheduled an Aug. 27 hearing to consider evicting Powdr Corp. if no settlement agreement is reached.
Most Parkites are keeping their fingers crossed in hopes that an agreement will be struck in the 2-year-old dispute. At this point, many don’t care who the operator is, as long as the resort continues to operate.
“It’s hard to predict what’s going to happen,” said Jack Walzer, general manager of Jan’s Mountain Outfitters. “But you have to have faith because there’s too much at stake.”
Jan’s has several shops in and around Park City, including one at the base of PCMR.
“If for some reason October rolls around and they haven’t reached a resolution, we’d survive because we have other shops,” he said. “But there are a lot of restaurants and ski shops up there [at PCMR] that would be affected.”
Parkites are weary of the controversy, according to Mike Lindbloom of the Main Street Deli.
“I don’t know anybody who’s happy about it,” he said. “One person told me, ‘Just because of them, now we have to rearrange our lives.’ ”
It’s clear that Powdr Corp. made a “big mistake, a horrible mistake,” he said, but now they have to move forward.
“They need each other, Lindbloom said of Powdr Corp. and Vail. “They have to work it out — there is a lot of money involved.”
Even though the greater Park City area has three resorts, including Deer Valley, publicity surrounding the uncertainty at PCMR could impact tourism and the economy throughout west Summit County, said Park City resident Rick Heil, who skis at both PCMR and Canyons Resort.
The dispute “has people concerned. PCMR, Deer Valley and Canyons are big draws,” Heil said. “Anything that is in fact disruptive or even appears disruptive can’t be helpful.”
Like Lindbloom, Heil sees Powdr Corp. holding the short end of the stick.
“PCMR has dragged this out for two years. What’s changed?” he said. “There is nothing that requires them to work together.”
Still, Heil is holding out hope the resort will open this ski season. “Everybody wants them to settle.”