Park City Mtn. Resort sues land owner

David Wise competes in the Men's Halfpipe Final in the 2011 FIS Freestyle World Ski Championships at Park City Mountain Resort. Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

On March 9, Park City Mountain Resort filed a lawsuit against Talisker Land Holdings LLC, a Canadian company that owns Canyons, a neighboring ski resort in Park City, Utah. The suit follows failed negotiations between the two parties to extend a lease for land owned by Talisker and used by PCMR for resort operations.

"Park City Mountain Resort filed a lawsuit to protect the future of the resort and the livelihood of all of our employees and the Park City community," said Jenni Smith, president and general manager of PCMR. "We made numerous attempts to reach an agreement on the lease but negotiations had completely broken down. We are now seeking relief through the court, the only option left at our disposal."

The lawsuit caught Talisker by surprise. "We had hoped to reach terms on the new lease that would be fair to both parties," the company said in a March 9 statement. "Unfortunately, it appears that PCMR is attempting to use litigation to better its position and avoid reaching a mutually fair outcome." Talisker representatives did not respond to requests for further comment.

PCMR contends that it could be forced to close down before next season due to what the ski area describes as Talisker's interference with resort operations. Both PCMR and Canyons play large roles in the Park City community and the Utah ski industry. PCMR employs 1,200 people, while Talisker and Canyons combine for 2,000 employees. Utah resorts accounted for 4,223,064 skier day visits during the 2010-11 season and $1.17 billion in economic activity.

Land owned by Talisker and co-defendant United Park City Mines has been leased to PCMR for ski operations since the 1970s. The current annual rate paid by PCMR is $155,000, according to the lawsuit. The lease was up for renewal in April 2011, and PCMR says it notified the defendants of its intent to extend the agreement, then paid the rent required under the current arrangement and invested $7 million in infrastructure upgrades in 2011. In December of last year, Talisker notified PCMR that the agreement expired in April 2011 because of PCMR's failure to provide sufficient notification of its intent to extend the lease.

"Talisker has offered PCMR new lease terms, and the parties have been in discussions regarding such new lease terms, which are subject to an agreement of confidentiality," the statement from Talisker read. Talisker owns skiable terrain, but PCMR possesses facilities like base lodges, parking lots, water rights, and chair lifts. "We cannot comment on negotiations, but our offers have been more than fair," Smith said for PCMR.

PCMR's lawsuit seeks three outcomes from a court decision: recognition that the land-use agreement is valid through 2051; an injunction to prevent Talisker from forcing PCMR to cease business operations; and monetary damages.

"It's unclear what the next steps will be in the lawsuit, but we'll have a better idea of the calendar in the coming weeks," Smith said. The defendants have 20 days from the filing date to file a line-by-line response to PCMR's claims. That deadline is Monday, April 2 (today), and a response to the lawsuit is expected soon. PCMR has created a website, supportpcmr.com, to keep employees and the community informed about the proceedings.