Is Park City, Utah on a Downhill Slide?
by Joel Carson
Utah Real Estate
SLBR 2012 ‘Salesperson of the Year’
Although Park City Mountain Resort (PCMR) was recently served an eviction notice by a company representing Vail Resorts, don’t look for PCMR’s office furniture to show up on a local Facebook yard sale page anytime soon.
Today, 3rd District Judge Ryan Harris will hear a fight over documents Park City Mountain Resort says its opponent is not entitled to receive as the case moves toward a Dec. 5 trial.
No moving vans are likely to descend upon the star-studded valley within the next week to whisk away this piece of history; and, Realtors with lockbox keys won’t be leading a parade of posh potential new tenants down the halls of administration for a look-see. Two important financial entities are flexing their muscles for each other and make no mistake: everyone gets what is at stake here. Nobody gets it better than PCMR and Vail.
Meet the Players
Park City Mountain Resort (PCMR)
For decades, PCMR has leased land from Talisker Lands Holding, LLC. In this instance, Talisker represents Vail Resorts, Inc. PCMR’s parent company, Powdr Corp oversees management of ski resorts throughout the country and in China.
In March 2012, Christopher Smart of The Salt Lake Tribune reported on a land lease dispute between PCMR and offered up this bit of history, “Since the early ’60s PCMR … has leased ski terrain from United Park City Mines. Talisker acquired the mining company in 2003.”
Basically, PCMR manages the entire Utah resort operation.
Powdr Corporation is the parent company to PCMR. It is reportedly one of the largest ski resort operators in North America. The corporation focuses on ski area operations. It was founded in 1994 by Ian Cumming with the purchase of Park City Mountain Resort. It is now owned by the Cumming family and headquartered in Park City, Utah. John Cumming is the current chief executive officer of Powdr Corp.
Talisker Land Holdings, LLC
Talisker Land Holdings, LLC owns the land that was once under the control of United Park City Mines. PCMR operates on about 2,800 acres of the land. Jack Bistricer is the principle of Talisker. According to the Utah Division of Corporations and Commercial Code, Talisker has an office in Park City; the company is based in Canada.
Veil Resorts, Inc.
Vail Resorts, Inc. runs four ski resorts in Colorado, Canyons Resort in Park City, three in Lake Tahoe, one in Minnesota, one in Michigan, and a summer resort in Wyoming. They also own luxury resort hotels throughout the United States. The company is headquartered in Broomfield, Colorado.
What Went Wrong?
It’s impossible to say exactly what went wrong, but local, state and national news agency are reporting a long-running dispute between PCMR and Talisker has reached a critical point. According to the Park Record editorial board, “It is inconceivable that the future of Park City’s namesake ski area may come down to a disputed postmark. Park City Mountain Resort, arguably, made Utah’s ski industry what it is today a world-renowned destination and Winter Olympic host.”
It is reported that PCMR faced an April 30, 2011 deadline to renew its $155,000-a-year lease that allows the company to call Park City home. Talisker attorneys have formally accused PCMR operators of attempting to backdate a letter to make it appear they had met the deadline. The scenario is outlined in official court documents.
Last spring, the resort sued Talisker Corporation after lease negotiations broke down. A judge whittled the case down by removing key complaints. Talisker has demanded PCMR enter into new terms on its lease instead of perpetuating its existing lease. Why? Talisker wants more money and officials realized they could get it after Vail reached an agreement with Wolf Mountain Resorts to lease about 4,000 acres (Canyons Resort) $3 million a year.
PCMR’s lease has remained the same since about 1971. Inflation strikes everywhere, I guess, it’s hard to imagine any entity (especially one that has become world-famous) can escape it. Still, Talisker and PCMR have been negotiating for more than three years and it appears time is running out.
In PCMR’s original lawsuit against Talisker, the resort operator claimed, ‘Principals of Park City Mountain Resort and Talisker met repeatedly in 2009, 2010 and 2011 to discuss multiple property transactions, business opportunities and infrastructure investments, including the future lift connection between Park City Mountain Resort and Canyons Resort, a Talisker property. In the Summer of 2011, Park City Mountain Resort paid its annual fee for the use of the land, which was accepted by Talisker, and invested $7 million in infrastructure upgrades throughout the Resort,’ according to a March 9, 2012 article published online by SAM Magazine.
What Will Happen Now?
It’s impossible to predict where all of this muscle-flexing will lead us. It’s likely some information will be made available as a result of a court hearing. It’s safe to say closure of the resort (even as we race toward ski season) would be absolutely disastrous for:
- more than 1,200 people employed by the resort
- local businesses
- Utah’s economy
- Park City’s budget and its ability to maintain a necessary infrastructure
- local schools
- property owners who could see a dip in land values, and may find it hard to sell property until the issue is resolved
- season ticket-holders who might have to settle for a pro-rated refund if the resort closes
Vail Positioned to ‘Help Out’
Vail made a shrewd move when it took over operation of Canyons Resort. The company is conveniently positioned to move in (just in case Talisker is looking for a new tenant anytime soon).
PCMR has publicly vowed it has no intention of going anywhere. The reality here is that this legal battle could go on through this season and the next before any resolution is reached.
Park City homebuyers, you might get a good deal on local property if prices drop as a result of unrest among the higher ranks. If the resort does close, prices will sink; but they are likely to recover once operations begin again.
Home sellers, watch carefully. This is an issue on which you need to be informed.
Let’s keep in touch. I’ll be on the lookout for more news.