Park City Turf Wars
Five things you should know about the Hatfield-McCoy battle going on in Park City
Update: According to the Salt Lake Tribune, the 3rd District Court judge announced today his decision sign the eviction order that would force Park City Mountain Resort off the terrain owned by Talisker Land Holdings, LLC. However, the eviction will not be enforced until the end of August. In the meantime, the judge ordered a mediation between the two sides, forcing them to sit down and figure this out.
You’ve probably heard—the sky is falling in Park City. It’s a whole complicated mess of a legal battle that’s been drawn out for more than three years. But recently, the headlines out of Park City seem to just keep coming. And things are coming to a head. So pull up a chair and a bag of popcorn. Here are five things you should know about the movie-theater drama that is Park City Mountain Resort versus the landlord (Talisker Land Holdings, LLC) and Vail Resorts.
1. The gist: (In grossly oversimplified terms, because this is too complicated and convoluted for a story that needs to be less than 1,000 words): Park City Mountain Resort was enjoying one of the best deals in the ski industry—paying about $150,000 a year to run operations on the upper two-thirds of its terrain—until spring of 2011, when they were two tiny, but firm, days late to renew their lease. The lease was due Saturday, April 30, 2011. They submitted the requisite lease paperwork Monday, May 2, 2011. Oops?
Negotiations to strike a new lease went south, so Park City filed a lawsuit against its landlord, Talisker Land Holdings, LLC. Soon after, Talisker turned to Vail Resorts, signing a 50-year lease at neighboring Canyons Resort, with conditions that said Vail would take the lead on the legal battle against Park City, and, thereafter, take over the Park City terrain itself.
Then May 21, 2014, came around: the day a Utah judge ruled that Park City was indeed late, and thus, did not renew its lease. Park City wants to appeal the decision. Talisker and Vail want to move in. And that brings us to today.
Both sides are attending a hearing in the 3rd District Court Thursday that may result in the judge signing an eviction order against Park City. If that happens, Park City Mountain Resort will have 60 days to vacate the premises. Yup, an entire ski resort would be dismantled in less than two months.
2. The catch: access. While Park City may have lost most of its property, it still owns a third of the land—the bottom third. That includes the parking lots and all the access points, not to mention the snow-making machines, the chairlifts, and all base-area infrastructure—lodging, maintenance facilities, etc.
Unless all parties can come to the table and work things out, it’s a no-win situation. Park City’s parent company, Powdr Corp, says they have put offers on the table, but they’ve received no response from Vail or Talisker.
“I can’t negotiate with myself,” says Powdr Corp CEO John Cumming in a statement. “The truth is that I can’t get them to engage with me. We have received no concrete offers from Vail. Since we can’t keep bidding against ourselves, they need to come to the table. When that happens, this dispute can be resolved quickly in a way that works for both parties and the community.”
On the other hand, getting rid of Park City will be messy—more than $3 million messy. Last week, Park City submitted plans to the court detailing how they would move out in 60 days, dismantling 9 entire lifts, and removing all of their property. The work will take 33 weeks and $3,570,000. Park City officials said resort operations would cease immediately.
3. Kind of a dick move. Talisker’s aggressive tactics to evict Park City and get Vail in is something you’d expect in a Judge Judy TV episode, or in a corporate office high up on Wall Street. Not the ski industry. Park City was two days late—one business day—on renewing their lease. And now the entire ski resort is facing catastrophic destruction? Let’s just take a moment to reflect on how absurd this all is.
4. Go Vail…? As you can imagine, Park City skiers are tired and scared. One of three of major resorts in the area (Deer Valley and Canyons being the others) is threatening to cease operations, and that will have a devastating ripple effect on, not just the economy, but kids race programs, secret stashes, and the town’s livelihood. In the name of skiing, everyone wants to find a solution to this. And for some, that means embrace the inevitable—Vail.
Not that Park City should be idealized as the mom-and-pop ski area. Powdr Corp is also big and corporate. But still, embracing Vail is a doctrine not often heard in ski towns. While some—ski industry people and locals—wouldn’t comment on this controversial situation with a 10-foot pole, others said they’d enjoy skiing Park City with their Epic Pass. Browsing the comment section of the editorial in the Park Record, the tone is predominantly pro-Vail. Although, one must be wary of anonymous commenters who go under aliases like Fred Smith. Every ski town has a loud mouth with an axe to grind.
5. Well, I ski Snowbird. Well, on May 12, 2014, the CEO of Powdr Corp just partnered with Snowbird. Ian Cumming, John’s father, was an original investor in the Snowbird lodge, and the partnership with the Bass family—which was done under the Cumming family, not Powdr Corp—has been touted to bring in more funding to improve amenities, like a new restaurant on top of the tram. At the moment, that’s all that’s been disclosed. But when Utah resorts are coming together under the ONE Wasatch proposal, which would unite all seven resorts in the Wasatch, it’s hard not to speculate what would happen if Powdr Corp lost its keystone ski resort in Park City.
6. Can we just go skiing now? Here’s hoping the skiers in the court rooms will reach common ground in the thing we all love—sliding down snow—and find a way to spin the lifts at Park City come December. We’ll find out more from the court hear later today. Stay tuned.
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