Park City Mountain Resort skiers were baffled when they heard that the resort might not even open this coming season.
The story has been decades in the making and has resulted in both the purchase of Park City Mountain Resort (PCMR) by Vail Resorts for $182 million and the future combining of PCMR and Canyons Resort to make America’s largest ski resort.
In 1963, Park City was a mining town, with most of Summit and Wasatch Counties owned by United Park City Mines. At the time, a house and a plot of land were worth a mere $500, but United Park City Mines saw what the area could become.
The company decided to create Treasure Mountain Resort, a ski-by-winter and golf-by-summer resort with one lift and two lodges. After a couple of years, the mining company leased the rights to the mountain for ski access while maintaining full ownership of the land and its minerals. Over the next decades, those rights to ski access were sold from company to company, according to Park City.
A man named Nick Badami visited Park City in 1971 and saw the potential for both the city and the resort. He bought the resort, decided to focus on building up the Park City Resort Area and encouraged local businesses to fix up the mining town. The resort was soon considered among the best in the nation, and crowds poured in.
In 1985, Park City had the opportunity to host its first World Cup ski race, and Badami put on a show for the world with concerts, festivals and a city-wide party to accompany the race. The event brought a record 12,000 spectators and earned PCMR enough respect to bring back World Cup races every year afterward.
A man named Ian Cumming later took ownership of the company, as he had bought a majority of the company’s stock options. With Badami still playing a large role on the board of directors, the two men created Powdr Corporation in 1994. The resort retained its name, and Powdr Corporation owned the rights to the ski portion of the mountain while maintaining a paid lease to United Park City Mines, the landowners, according to Park City Magazine.
PCMR played a key role in the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics by hosting the giant slalom, the snowboarding halfpipe events and the snowboarding parallel giant slalom events. It was recorded that 95,991 spectators turned out to witness these events at PCMR.
In 2007, the neighboring Canyons Resort was undergoing a different set of transactions. The company that owned The Canyons was going bankrupt, and two separate companies, Talisker and Vail Resorts, were fighting to buy the resort. Talisker, a real-estate company, beat out Vail Resorts and bought Canyons Resort for $100 million, according to the Denver Post.
In April of 2011, Powdr Corporation was due to pay its 20-year lease renewal contract to the United Park City Mines, but it missed the deadline by a few days. A four-year legal dispute ensued, and without any decisions made, PCMR was on the brink of remaining closed for this upcoming season, according to Courier Islander.
Talisker saw the accounting error as an opportunity to expand its territory in the Park City area. In May of 2013 it proposed an expensive 50-year lease of Canyons Resort to Vail Resorts.
Vail Resorts decided to accept the deal with Powdr Corporation’s 2011 accounting error in mind, knowing it could maximize on Powdr Corporation’s error and take PCMR as well, according to the Denver Post.
With the option to either close but keep the resort or to open but lose the resort, Powdr Corporation agreed to sell PCMR to Vail Resorts for $182 million, finally ending the long negotiations. The conditions in the transaction were to ensure that Park City Mountain Resort employees would maintain their jobs and that the resort would remain open for the 2014–2015 ski season.
Most Park City residents and employees were relieved to have the ordeal over with.
“I am thrilled that the arguments are over, and I’m quite optimistic about what’s going to happen on the mountain for the skiers,” said Robert Newey, a Park City Mountain Resort ski instructor.
Newey was honored last season by the Professional Ski Instructors of America for having 40 years of certified ski instructor experience. He spent 36 of those years instructing at Park City Mountain Resort.
He explained that had a decision not been made and had the resort remained closed, all businesses in the Park City area, including competing ski resorts, would have suffered a major loss without the regular seasonal crowds coming in.
He also expressed confidence in Blaise Carrig, the current president of Vail Resorts and former president of Canyons Resorts.
“Blaise Carrig knows the area; it’s not like he’s coming in out of the blue and doesn’t know what’s happening,” Newey said. “I really have confidence that he’s going to do great things.”
As for student skiers, season pass rates are getting “epic.” Vail Resorts has offered the “Epic Pass” that gives skiers access to Canyons Resort, Park City Mountain Resort and to other major resorts across the United States and even overseas.
“(Vail Resorts’ purchase) has provided a lot more choices at a lower rate for students,” said Lisa Echols, a BYU nursing student. “I think that loads of students are going for these passes this year because of the cost and the fact they get more than one resort with it.”
Echols has participated in the Freeride Academy, BYU’s recognized ski club that plans ski movie premiers, hosts waxing clinics and gives discounts on ski gear. She sees this as a golden opportunity for students, as the Student Epic Pass costs only $499.
Vail Resorts has decided it’s too late to make any changes this year, but it has already announced plans for next summer to connect Canyons Resort and PCMR with new lifts. Additionally, it plans to make improvements on lodges, lifts and runs over the next five years.
“Park City will become the big deal for Vail because it will become the largest ski resort in America in terms of acreage,” Newey said. “It also sets the stage for connects into Brighton and Solitude.”
With Deer Valley’s recent purchase of Solitude, these connections between resorts could become more and more common.
“I think that within the next 10 years, we’re going to see a full interconnect lift-access from Snowbird to Deer Valley to Canyons,” Newey said.
However the future plays out, the purchase of Park City Mountain Resort turns a new page for the resort’s rich history and for the community that has long sought resolution.