It’s less than a sure thing, but there is a glimmer of hope for a 2014-15 ski season at Park City Mountain Resort.
Talisker Corp., which owns the ski terrain at PCMR and the neighboring Canyons Resort, stated in papers filed in 3rd District Court it would not oppose PCMR’s motion to stay an eviction from the land on one condition: PCMR posts a bond that will most likely be in the millions of dollars.
The move, according to Talisker, is aimed at relieving anxiety among Park City denizens and business owners who depend on the ski resort and tourism for their livelihoods.
Alan Sullivan, who represents PCMR, said Monday his client may be amenable to posting a bond if it is not too steep.
"We have to post a bond to get a stay of the eviction order," Sullivan said. "We hope Talisker/Vail will work with us for a reasonable bond. But if it’s too high, it’s too high."
Judge Ryan Harris will consider the matter at an Aug. 27 hearing in Summit County.
Talisker leases Canyons Resort facilities and ski terrain to Vail Resorts for $25 million annually. Vail is taking the lead in the litigation against PCMR and has stated Vail wants to operate the storied Park City ski area.
Canyons Resort had paid the previous landowner, Wolf Mountain, $3 million in annual lease payments. By contrast, under its lease agreement, PCMR paid $155,000 a year to Talisker — a rate that many observers say is an unrealistic leftover from another time.
In 1975, then-Park City Ski Area amended its lease with United Park City Mines to clarify that the agreement would end on April 30, 1991, but could be extended by three 20-year terms to 2051. Ian Cumming’s Powdr Corp. purchased Park City Ski Area in 1994 and renamed it Park City Mountain Resort. Talisker acquired United Park City Mines in 2003.
The Talisker/Vail bond offer is the latest twist in the ongoing legal battle between the ski titans, dating back to April 30, 2011, when PCMR missed its lease renewal deadline on 2,800 acres of ski terrain.
Earlier this year, Harris ruled in favor of Talisker/Vail on the land lease. But PCMR owns the resort base and facilities that are key to operating the ski terrain.
The judge ordered the parties into mediation. By law, those talks are secret. It is clear, however, that the parties have not reached agreement.
In a statement, Talisker and Vail said they did not want Park City and Snyderville Basin businesses and employees to suffer as litigation goes on. PCMR has said it would appeal Harris’ ruling to the Utah Supreme Court — signaling what could be two to three years more of litigation.
"Talisker does not believe that a stay [of eviction] is productive in this situation, given how long this legal process has already taken and the remote likelihood of PCMR’s success on appeal," the statement said. "However, Talisker and Vail Resorts are very mindful that uncertainty regarding the 2014/2015 ski season is taking a toll on the Park City community."
But the bond is expected to be hefty.
According to John Lund, who represents Talisker and Vail, the bond includes "fair rental value" for the past ski season, the upcoming 2014-15 season and the 2015-16 season. Those rates are equivalent to three times what PCMR had been paying in lease rates. It also includes lease payments and interest for 2012-13 and 2013-14. Further, it includes Talisker/Vail attorney fees for the litigation to date.
"We hope the judge will listen and decide what the bond [amount] will be," Lund said. "If they don’t post the bond, there will be no stay."
Park City Councilwoman Liza Simpson was guardedly optimistic.
"I’m still hopeful," she said, "the court-ordered mediation will provide an outcome that will benefit both companies as well as the community."
In the meantime, Park City residents and business owners continue to hold their collective breath.
Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.