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Park City mayor to ski resort litigants: Get it together

Published July 31, 2014 7:05 am

Tourism • Feud between Park City Mountain Resort and Talisker Corp. threatens local economy.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Park City Mayor Jack Thomas — along with most residents of Utah's premier ski town — is losing patience with the land-lease dispute between Talisker Corp. and Park City Mountain Resort (PCMR) that threatens to shutter the ski resort for the upcoming ski season and cripple the local economy.

In a public statement, the mayor scolded both sides for not reaching an agreement that would keep PCMR open for the 2014-15 ski season and the foreseeable future.

Thomas' statement comes on the heels of an announcement by Talisker — which also leases the Canyons Resort to Vail Resorts — that if PCMR were to deposit a nonrefundable bond, it could continue to operate the ski resort until litigation is completed.

Talisker said it made the offer to relieve anxieties that are building as ski season approaches.

The bond, most likely, will be in the millions of dollars.

The offer fell short of significant progress in the mayor's eyes.

"This latest [bond offer] statement by Talisker only further confirms what has become an all too disturbing pattern of public statements devoid of any real or meaningful solution," Thomas said. "It remains unclear what Talisker/Vail is giving up by this action and provides no solace for the thousands of area residents and businesses who continue to live in uncertainty."

Vail has stated publicly it wishes to operate PCMR in addition to the Canyons Resort. Its attorneys are taking the lead role for Talisker.

Officials at Powdr Corp., which operates PCMR, have said they will fight the case to the Utah Supreme Court. That could mean two or three more years of litigation.

The amount of the bond will be determined by 3rd District Judge Ryan Harris. A hearing is set for Aug. 15.

The smack-down between the ski titans is the result of PCMR missing its lease renewal deadline on April 30, 2011, of 2,800 acres of ski terrain.

Harris ruled in favor of Talisker/Vail on the land-lease dispute.

But PCMR owns the resort base and facilities that are essential to operating the ski terrain.

The judge ordered the parties into mediation, but no agreement has been reached.

"[T]here appears to be a serious disconnect between what both Talisker/Vail and PCMR claim they want and what the community is getting — a fully operational ski resort next season and beyond," Thomas said. "For either party to operate the resort next season, each must be willing to compromise and leave something on the table."

The foreboding has become palpable in the ski town that must soon gear up for the winter tourist season. West Summit County is home to three ski resorts, including Deer Valley. But it's feared that if PCMR weren't to open, it would harm tourism overall.

"Obviously there is a sense of anxiety the longer this goes on," said Bill Malone, executive director of the Park City Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau.

The dispute has not yet impacted bookings for the ski season, he said. But it will if not resolved soon.

"If this were to drag on into October, it would have much bigger implications," he said, referring to skiers booking winter vacations.

Further, Malone said, the Park City business community has expressed its concerns to PCMR and Talisker/Vail.

"This is not lost on them. They know," Malone said. "We've expressed this — how big the implications are on jobs and the economy."

csmart@sltrib.com