Park City Mountain Resort turns 50, brushes off legal trouble
Park City • After 50 years in business, skiers and now snowboarders keep coming to Park City Mountain Resort (PCMR).
A steady stream of vehicles flowed onto Park City's Silver King Drive early Saturday, packing the parking lot by 10 a.m. on opening day. PCMR president and general manager Jenni Smith, who grew up skiing at the resort, said hitting the 50-year mark is something to celebrate.
"It's a big milestone for the company, it's a big milestone for a lot of the employees," some of whom have worked at the resort since the beginning, Smith said. "The passion and the love that we all have for this sport as well as this place is still just as fresh as it was 35 years ago when I started here."
The former Treasure Mountain Resort has come a long way from its start in 1963 when it had just a gondola, a chairlift, two lodges and a 9-hole golf course. Now with 116 runs, 19 lifts and multiple lodges, shops and restaurants, PCMR has become a world-class resort and the economic backbone of this former mining town.
That's one reason the ongoing land lease dispute between PCMR and Colorado-based Vail Resorts, which now operates The Canyons, rattled locals earlier this year. Vail served an eviction notice on PCMR in August, an action that theoretically could have shuttered PCMR, but many locals never really believed that would happen.
Marlene O'Hara, arms full of mail at the U.S. Post Office on Main Street, said she was never nervous that PCMR would be forced to move. A Parkite since 1973, she said she hasn't heard too much discussion among friends and neighbors about the ongoing legal wrangling.
"There's too much money involved to close it, so that's why I believe it wouldn't happen," O'Hara said. "It's just too important to this town."
Micah Mitchell, morning manager at The Eating Establishment, said locals have been worried more about what was going to happen to the mountain they know and love than who manages the resort.
"If they shut down that mountain, it would really mess up the community as a whole, not just PCMR," Mitchell said. "The whole town would have a huge impact, so I never really saw that threat [of eviction] coming through."
But the litigation has taken a toll on skiers, said Jim Tedford, a former PCMR ski school instructor who started skiing PCMR "50 years ago today." Back in the lift line after his first run of the day, Tedford said he had no doubt that PCMR would open this season, but said Parkites are "just sort of sitting and waiting" for the litigation to end.
"I guess it'll get settled sometime, but it's really hurt business and a lot of people aren't coming these days because of all the hassles," Tedford said. "It's very unfortunate."
Standing at the PayDay Lift as the first chair started up the mountain, PCMR's Jenni Smith preferred to highlight the resort's break-out moments hosting the World Cup and the 2002 Winter Games instead of the effects of its current legal entanglements. With litigation still in discovery mode, Smith sees the legal showdown as an undesirable, but natural, part of the company's life.
"I think it's just one of those things that any business goes through," Smith said. "We're really happy to be here and we plan to be here for another 50 years."