An eight-passenger gondola will be the centerpiece of Vail Resorts’ strategy for connecting Canyons Resort with Park City Mountain Resort. The Colorado-based resort group revealed its plans for bringing the two neighboring mountains together – and solidifies Vail’s intention to create the largest ski and snowboarding area in the United States since acquiring Park City Mountain this offseason.
To make a lift-accessible connection between the resorts – and bring some 7,300 acres within reach -- planners had to get over Pine Cone Ridge that separates the ski areas at their south-north common boundary. The new gondola will do just that, plus it will stop at the top of the ridge to let skiers and riders disembark and try out several trails to be cut on either side of the divide.
“Putting the two resorts together has been the vision for a long time,” said Bill Rock, newly named CEO at Park City Mountain. “It’s great for our company, it’s great for Park City, and it’s great for Utah skiing.”
Also in Vail’s $50 million improvement plan will be upgrading two fixed-grip lifts on the Park City side – King Con and Mother Lode -- to the high-speed detachable variety. A new restaurant, called the Snow Hut, will go up where these lifts join with the gondola, and the existing Summit House restaurant at the top of the Mother Lode lift will get a facelift. On the other side, the capacity of the Canyons’ Red Lodge restaurant be expanded.
Blaise Carrig, president of the mountain division for Vail Resorts, told SnoCountry.com that "the improvements offer skiers and riders more terrain and upgraded lifts to enhance the guest experience and reduce crowding and lift lines, new and upgraded restaurants, more snowmaking and an overall ‘touching up’ of all aspects of the resorts."
Beefed-up snowmaking and trail widening on both sides of the divide round out what Vail Resorts expects to do over next summer in order to be ready for the 2015-2016 season.
Vail Resorts plans to operate the two ski areas as “one unified branded experience” under the name "Park City Mountain Resort". The Canyons base area will be renamed "Canyons at Park City".
The announcement appears to bring to a close a messy chapter of conflicts between the owners of the two Wasatch resorts. In 2011, Park City Mountain officials failed re-up its lease with Talisker Corp., which owns Canyons on time. The two sides went to court and Vail Resorts, which operates Canyons for Talisker, prevailed.
As a result, Vail Resorts purchased Park City Mountain Resort for $182 million and announced plans to connect the two mountains.
Graphic: Courtesy Vail Resorts