Utah ski resort sold amid long legal battle

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — One of Utah's largest ski areas was sold to Vail Resorts Inc. Thursday, resolving a legal battle between two ski titans and paving the way for the creation of what could be the country's largest resort.

The $182.5 million deal, effective immediately, gives Vail the base area and parking lot at Park City Mountain Resort, as well as lifts and snowmaking equipment. The Colorado-based company is already leasing the upper 3,000 acres of slopes, but couldn't use them without the base area owned by Powdr Corp.

The sale will allow Vail to connect Park City with the adjacent Canyons ski area it leased last year from real estate company Talisker, which applauded the deal Thursday.

When the two are connected with a lift in the future, the resulting 7,000-acre resort will be the largest in the country, said Vail CEO Rob Katz.

"This is one of the most impactful opportunities our company has ever had," said Katz.

Vail's stock had shot up about 11 percent by Thursday afternoon on news of the deal.

For the upcoming season, Vail will operate the two resorts separately. They'll honor Park City passes or allow skiers to exchange for the company's $749 Epic Pass, which allows access at 22 resorts, or a local version. The company will maintain the two names in the future, but the connection between the two will be seamless, said Katz.

Powdr Corp. CEO John Cumming said his company entered the deal reluctantly, but it will give security to the city and the 2,000 employees who will stay in their current jobs.

"Selling was the last thing we wanted to do, and while we believe the law around this issue should be changed, a protracted legal battle is not in line with our core value to be good stewards of the resort communities in which we operate," Cumming said in a statement.

A judge ordered Park City evicted from the slopes in May after ruling the long-running fixture had missed a deadline to renew a decades-old sweetheart lease it got from a mining company. Though they continued the court battle, the two sides also started court-ordered mediation talks.

Vail's properties include resorts in the Lake Tahoe area and the Midwest as well as Utah and Colorado. Powdr owns seven major U.S. ski areas, from Vermont's Killington to Oregon's Mount Bachelor.

At one point, the legal battle between the ski titans put the upcoming season at risk, raising concerns about thousands of jobs and millions of sales dollars in Park City.

Grub Steak Restaurant owner Hans Fuegi said the sale should relieve three years of tension, but the news is bittersweet.

"Most people have a lot of respect for not only the resort, but what John (Cumming) has done for the area," said Fuegi, who welcomed the concept of a connected Canyons and Park City.

"Geographically, quite frankly, it should have happened a long time ago," he said. "From the topography and the terrain, it's very easy to join these two resorts."

Lifts began running at what was then called Treasure Mountain in 1963, marking the start of the modern-day ski industry in the town about 30 miles east of Salt Lake City that hosted many of the events in the 2002 Winter Olympics.