For nearly six months, skiers and riders have laid in wait wondering what the future might look like for Park City Mountain Resort (PCMR). Its dispute with Talisker is heading to trial.
If you weren’t paying attention Thanksgiving week you might have missed the next big step in PCMR’s struggle with Talisker Land Holdings, the parent company of Canyons Resort. That’s because Summit County’s Third District Court Judge Ryan Harris decided to rule right before Thanksgiving Day and let the headline get buried under all the holiday gravy.
Harris has dismissed several of Park City Mountain Resort’s claims but not all; therefore “PCMR v. Talisker” is headed to trial.
“We certainly have a basis for alleging that they (Talisker) want to take over the resort,” said PCMR attorney Alan Sullivan. The lawsuit is meant to force their hand. “Winning means we proceed with our operations on the 3,700 acres covered by the leases as they provide,” said Sullivan. “Losing would require us to shut down.”
At dispute is a long-standing lease between PCMR and United Park City Mines (UPCM), which allows PCMR to operate their resort on its land. PCMR alleges that the agreement with the mine company was intended to extend through 2051.
But then UPCM sold their land to Talisker in 2003, including most of PCMR. (PCMR, however, owns the base facilities and infrastructure with snowmaking and water rights so the resort isn’t much good to Talisker without those.)
When PCMR missed the deadline to provide written notice of its intent to extend the property leases (which expired in April, 2011), Talisker was swift to swoop.
"The Park City Parties had an obligation to strictly comply with the leases' renewal provisions, and they failed to do so," Harris wrote in his summary. He dismissed PCMR’s claim that Talisker had a duty to notify the resort of the requirements of a lease renewal before the expiration date. He also dismissed PCMR’s antitrust claims.
But he wasn’t about to hang PCMR out to dry completely. He allowed PCMR’s argument that Talisker should be stopped from claiming the leases expired. “PCMR alleges in 2009, 2010 and 2011, there were specific conversations about the leases and there was a shared understanding when they made investments,” said Sullivan. “The improvements they made (to the resort) would only make sense if there was that understanding.”
Judge Harris also allowed PCMR’s claim for damages if it is found that Talisker failed to disclose early on that they considered the leases to be expiring.
Sullivan says they’ll begin initial discovery to gather depositions and documents to support their claims, but hopes an agreement can be reached.
“We’re always hopeful that this can be settled,” he said. “And we’ve made that clear to Talisker from the beginning.” When asked why PCMR doesn’t simply renew the lease at a higher rate, Sullivan hinted that it seemed no amount of money would satisfy their opponent.
Talisker, on the other hand, has always contended that they do not want to own PCMR but are unwilling to say what exactly they do want from them.
So here the two parties stand; awaiting a trial date which could be many months out.
Photo: Park City Mountain Resort