Utah ski resort to open this season after all

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — One of Utah's largest resorts will open its slopes this upcoming ski season after agreeing to pay a $17.5 million bond that a judge said it must pay to keep the slopes open.

Park City Mountain Resort was in danger of closing this winter because of a long-running court battle with another major ski industry company, creating fear among Park City municipal leaders and business owners about significant losses in sales.

The decision means that despite months of high anxiety, it will be business as usual when the resort opens for the 51st straight season on Nov. 22, said Park City Mountain Resort spokesman Andy Miller. The resort has been a fixture in the state's ski culture and served as the training ground for Olympians such as Ted Ligety.

"Our goal working through this whole process was to keep the resort open," Miller said. "We're gratified that we'll able to make that happen."

A judge ordered the resort evicted in May after ruling it missed a deadline to renew a bargain-rate, decades-old lease it got from a mining company.

Its new landlord, real estate company Talisker, last year lined up a replacement: Vail Resorts Inc., the country's largest ski resort operator.

On Friday, Utah Judge Ryan Harris ordered Park City Mountain Resort to post the bond within a week to postpone an eviction. The amount he set was much closer to Park City's $6.6 million request than the $124 million demand from Vail.

After the hearing, an attorney for the resort said his clients would have to decide whether to post the money. That elicited a terse response from John Lund, an attorney for Talisker. He said in a statement that any suggestion the resort can't pay is "foolishness" since it has been making millions in profits.

Lund applauded the resort's decision to post the bond Tuesday, and said the company was looking forward to a long-term solution.

The decision to pay up and keep the slopes open this winter comes as great news for Park City businesses. Park City Mayor Jack Thomas estimated $185 million in lost sales for businesses if the ski area didn't open this year.

"I could see the entire community take a nice, big, deep breath and have a collective sigh of relief," said Thomas, who added that he has skied at the resort for all 50 years it's been open.

Though there are two other resorts in the area, Park City Mountain Resort has deep historical roots and is physically connected to the ski town through a lift on Main Street. The resort also employs about 2,000 people and is responsible for at least a third of the 1.84 million skiers who come every year to Park City.

Miller stressed that this is only a short-term solution, and that the larger legal battle needs to be settled to avoid worrying about missing future ski seasons. Mediation between the two sides is ongoing.

"It's an important outcome, but only for 2014-15 season," Miller said. "We will continue working toward a reasonable and fair long-term solution."

Hans Fuegi, owner of the Grub Steak restaurant, said the bond posting was going to help people sleep better, but Park City residents won't be able to completely stop worrying.

"It's going to, to some extent, keep hanging over us," he said.