Powdr, Vail Continue Public Battle Over PCMR

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Publish Date

05/01/2014

SAM Magazine—Park City, Utah, May 1, 2014—Powdr Corp and Vail Resorts have continued to address one another through the media and public forums, including a series of public letters between the two companies’ CEOs and the Mountain Travel Symposium, as they await a judge’s ruling on the status of Park City Mountain Resort’s lease for much of its terrain. While the parties strongly disagree in their interpretation of recent events, they agree on one thing: the need to work together for the benefit of the community and the parties themselves in the future, once the litigation is complete.

That litigation awaits two key rulings by District Judge Ryan Harris. One regards the validity of PCMR’s lease—that being the issue at the heart of the dispute—and another relates to whether Powdr had a first right of refusal, ahead of Vail Resorts, to purchase the land Powdr has formerly leased. Those rulings are expected in June.

In the meantime, Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz has made his position clear, via two public letters dated March 25 and April 15 and a question-and-answer session at the Mountain Travel Symposium. He views the PCMR lease invalid and, if the courts agree, plans to take over operation of the resort. VR, Katz said, would operate Canyons and Park City separately, but interconnect them and offer a joint pass (i.e., the Epic Pass), “something that skiers and riders have wanted for years.”

In mid-April, Katz wrote, “While I understand your interest in retaining control of the resort, I fear that ignores reality. If your lease is found to have expired, PCMR will have … no role in that terrain anymore.”

However, recognizing that PCMR owns the land at the base of the area, including the land occupied by the parking lots, service facilities and lower lift terminals, Katz added, “Our company is very willing to work constructively with you to maximize the value of your base lands … and to ensure that Park City residents and guests continue to have a high-quality experience at the resort.”

If PCMR prevails in the rulings? Then VR will work cooperatively with PCMR, Katz has repeatedly said.

For his part, Cumming replied in an April 25 public letter that VR’s letters “are part of a transparent plan to pressure me and my company, Powdr, into agreeing to a Vail takeover of Park City Mountain Resort.” He disputed Katz’ claim that PCMR had chosen to litigate with Talisker, the disputed lands’ owner, rather than negotiate. PCMR, he said, offered to buy the land at more than market value, or to lease it for more than the going market rate. “Talisker’s response to all these overtures was to demand capitulation,” he said, seeking a rent that would “quickly put [PCMR] out of business,” and also demanded that, at the end of any new lease, “the base facilities and all other assets involved in the operation of the resort [be] turned over to Talisker for free.”

Cumming agreed that the base lands owned by Powdr have value in the future operation of the resort, and reiterated his statement that Powdr has no intention of selling that land. “If you win the lawsuit you’ll certainly have succeeded in buying a chair at the negotiation table, but you will not own the table, or the resort. So we must negotiate a resolution, even if Vail wins the lawsuit.”

On that point, Cumming reiterated his willingness to enter into a long-term lease “for an amount consistent with our offer to purchase the land,” and to “negotiate the terms of an interconnect between our two resorts.”

Both men concluded with conciliatory words and pledged to do what’s best for the Park City community.

“When the case is over, you should make sure you get fair value for what’s yours, but also take steps to ensure we provide the best guest and community experience possible. I can absolutely make that commitment for Vail Resorts,” Katz said.

“Let’s work together constructively to come to an agreement that works for all parties and the community,” Cumming concluded.