Breaking: Utah court sides with Talisker, Vail Resorts over Park City land dispute

Comments by Donny O'Neill/

After what has been a three-year legal battle, a Utah district court ruled that Park City Mountain Resort failed to renew the lease of its ski terrain in 2011, and that the owners of the land, Talisker Mountain Inc., have the right to lease the land to a new operator.

When Talisker leased Canyons Resort to Vail Resorts last year, the deal stated that Vail Resorts would in turn take over the legal battle with Park City Mountain Resort, and have the opportunity to operate the ski area. In August, Talisker issued a formal eviction notice to PCMR which stated that PCMR must vacate the premises by the end of Labor Day weekend, although the resort operated as scheduled for the 2013/14 season while legal proceedings took place.

A statement from Talisker attorney John Lund states that “Talisker looks forward to bringing in Vail Resorts as its new tenant and operator of the terrain.”

On the flip side John Cumming, CEO of Powdr Corp., the former operator of PCMR, stated that “we will not walk away and allow a Vail takeover.”

The land at the base of PCMR is still private land, and Cumming informed the court last month that if they ruled against Powdr, he would prohibit access of the land to Vail Resorts, forcing all PCMR traffic to be routed through the neighboring Canyons Resort.

In addition, Alan L. Sullivan, attorney for PCMR, said “we are committed to ensuring that PCMR has its day in court so it can show that it acted responsibly and in good faith and that its right to use the lands at issue has been extended.”

Vail Resorts also released a statement that reads:

“Vail Resorts, Inc. announced that the Company is very pleased with the ruling today by the Third Judicial District Court of Summit County, Utah in Talisker’s favor on all matters relating to the expiration of the Park City Mountain Resort lease.”

Statement from John D. Cumming, CEO of Powdr:

We respect the Court’s decision but at the end of the day it doesn’t change the fact that Vail and PCMR can and must resolve this dispute. For that to happen, both parties will need to sit down at the table, negotiate in good faith, and come to a rational agreement. We are committed to doing exactly that, which is why we have made repeated offers to buy or lease the disputed property for an amount far in excess of market value. But let me be clear: we will not walk away and allow a Vail takeover.

To date, there has been no response to these offers. By picking up where Jack Bistricer and Talisker left off in demanding we sell PCMR at terms they dictate, Vail is demonstrating a fundamental misunderstanding of what this litigation could yield for them. That may explain their willingness to acquire the Canyons at a premium and its corresponding desire to get PCMR on the cheap, but it does not change the basic facts at issue: even if Vail ultimately prevails in this litigation, it cannot possibly operate a resort on the leased property. They do not own the adjacent lands and facilities that are essential for ski operations to take place. And they are not for sale.

Our community has become one of the world’s premier ski destinations because each of our three resorts – PCMR, Canyons, and Deer Valley – offers a unique ski experience, and because we compete with each other for guests. A Vail takeover would diminish what we collectively offer to guests. They may boast of their domination of other communities but that flies in the face of what has made Park City so successful.

We know this dispute has created uncertainty and tension within Park City. We remain hopeful that a rational resolution can be made. In the meantime, we are going to continue to do what we’ve done for the past 50 years: focus on delivering the best possible guest experience, make continued investments like Woodward Park City, and be a responsible part of a community that makes Park City an incredible place to work and live.

Related: Talisker Corporation issues eviction notice to Park City Mountain Resort